Advertisement
  1. Opinion

On Rays, so what’s the plan now? | Editorial

Playing hardball is one thing. Planning a Tampa Bay future for the team is another.
Tropicana Field is seen Tuesday in St. Petersburg. Mayor Rick Kriseman will not allow the Tampa Bay Rays to split their season between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal. Instead, he said both the city and team will abide by the contract that locks the team into Tropicana Field through the 2027 season. [CHRIS URSO  |  Times]
Tropicana Field is seen Tuesday in St. Petersburg. Mayor Rick Kriseman will not allow the Tampa Bay Rays to split their season between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal. Instead, he said both the city and team will abide by the contract that locks the team into Tropicana Field through the 2027 season. [CHRIS URSO | Times]
Published Dec. 5, 2019

Major league baseball has been woven into the fabric of Tampa Bay for more than a century, when the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Browns in St. Petersburg’s first-ever spring training game in 1914. Tampa Bay has had its own team for a generation now — the Rays — born of years of struggle and effort by farsighted leaders to support a domed stadium and land a home team. They built it — and eventually baseball did come. But the Rays’ future here has never been more in doubt.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman threw a tight, high fastball at Rays’ owners this week, telling them that right now they can only negotiate to play home games in Montreal — or anywhere else — starting after the Tropicana Field lease ends in 2027. The Rays claim a split scheme with Montreal, which they wanted in place by 2024, is the best way to make Tampa Bay a viable home, if only part time. If the Rays leave Tampa Bay in 2028, mark down Dec. 4 as the beginning of the end, and Kriseman as the mayor who made the call.

So what’s the plan? Letting a lame-duck team fester and stew in an obsolete stadium for eight seasons is not an option. And it’s hard to redevelop the Tropicana Field site without knowing whether a stadium is in the mix or not. Simply saying no and leaving the mess to the next mayor with a clock ticking down isn’t an answer either.

The Rays have played hardball themselves, abruptly killing the Ybor City stadium proposal last December and later portraying the Montreal plan as a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum, but credit them for putting a winning team on the field and pitching ideas over the years about where that field might be. As unlikely as the Montreal plan’s success might have been, it seems premature for Kriseman to pull the plug without a more public airing of the possible options. It was also wrong-headed for the Rays to reject the mayor’s offer to look again throughout the Tampa Bay region for a new permanent home. So now, what next?

With its art-centric downtown and still-growing buzz, St. Petersburg is a very different place than the city that scrapped so long to bring baseball here in the first place, let alone the small town of 7,500 that hosted the first spring training game in 1914. But it’s a stretch to say that Tampa Bay has outgrown baseball, that it no longer needs it. A region with a major league team is just that — major league — and that brings with it civic pride and a sense of identity. It’s foolish to abandon that dream and to foreclose options that could keep it alive.

As has become clear in recent years, the path for professional baseball to succeed in Tampa Bay is narrow. But it exists. Other areas have mass transit, more corporate headquarters and higher-income residents. But Tampa Bay has a generations-long love affair with the game, and leaders should be careful about too quickly squandering an asset that was so hard to obtain — and equally hard to replace. Keeping the Rays will carry a price. Losing them would have a price, too. It’s time for an honest discussion about what price is worth paying. So, what’s the plan?

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Tim Nickens, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis waves to members of the Florida Legislature during a joint session of lawmakers this week. [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    Here’s what readers are saying in Saturday’s letters to the editor.
  2. Presiding Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts swears in members of the Senate for the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. [AP]
    Here’s what readers are saying in Monday’s letters to the editor.
  3. Jomari DeLeon, is pictured at at Gadsden Correctional Facility in Quincy, Florida August 7, 2019. Jomari is three years into a 15-year sentence for drug trafficking. She sold 48 tablets of prescription tablets over two days to an undercover officer. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |  Times]
    Women, Hispanics and residents from smaller counties are disproportionately serving long drug sentences that are no longer in place.
  4. Thousands of trees line the Hillsborough River near Wilderness park in Hillsborough County in Tampa. [LUIS SANTANA  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Many of Florida’s problems originate with that ‘motto,’ writes historian Gary Mormino.
  5. First meeting of U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon and Martin Luther King Jr. and their two wives — Patricia Nixon and Coretta Scott King — during Independence Day celebrations in Accra, Ghana, on March 6, 1957, on the tails of the end of the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott. It was the first trip to Africa of all of them. [Photo by Griff Davis on assignment as U.S. Foreign Service Officer by U.S. Information Service (USIS). Copyright and courtesy of Griffith J. Davis Photographs & Archives.]
    Griff Davis’ daughter recounts how the photographer and Foreign Service officer captured a famous photo of King and Richard Nixon.
  6. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman speak at a summit held by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council's Resiliency Coalition this month in St. Petersburg. [LANGSTON TAYLOR  |  Times staff]
    Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman should lead an effort for robust regional transit.
  7. Vehicle traffic is seen along Bayshore Boulevard at a crosswalk at South Dakota Avenue in Tampa. Several intersections have pedestrian-activated beacons.
    A bill would end the confusion and save lives by making crosswalk signals red.
  8. A scientist studies DNA. [iStockphoto.com] [File photo]
    A bill before the Legislature would properly ban life insurers and others from profiting off your genetic information.
  9. Paula Dockery of Lakeland served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years. [Paula Dockery]
    Providing affordable health care, fixing state prisons and spending more on the environment should be priorities, the columnist writes.
  10.  [LISA BENSON  |  Lisa Benson -- Washington Post Writers Group]
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement