Rays fans react: How the Tampa Bay-Montreal split could work

Letters to the sports editor: Responses from readers who accept the premise of Stuart Sternberg’s plan.
Judging from this batch of reader responses, there are Rays fans who want to see Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg's Tampa Bay-Montreal split work, or at least be given a fair hearing. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
Judging from this batch of reader responses, there are Rays fans who want to see Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg's Tampa Bay-Montreal split work, or at least be given a fair hearing. SCOTT KEELER | Times
Published July 5

The responses of Rays fans to principal owner Stuart Sternberg’s plan to pursue splitting seasons between Tampa Bay and Montreal ran the gamut of anger and dismissal. But there’s also a portion of the fan base open to the proposal for a variety of reasons.

Today we hear from those who see ways it could work, and why it’s better than no team. Share your thoughts via email to sports@tampabay.com.

Make it work

My brother and I are 22-game season-ticket holders and watch most of the others on TV. Who can go to 80 games or even 40? It would be interesting to see if the mayor and council members have season tickets or how many games they attend. They need to get on board with this idea. A new small ballpark where Al Lang is now could be beautiful. That’s where the hub of people are going to live. You say parking is a problem? Use some city-owned land to the north (Toytown), to the west (Azalea Park) and the lots west of the Trop (lots 1 and 2) and develop the rest. Five dollars to park and a $5 round-trip bus ride to the game. I’m sure there are some empty buses sitting around each day. I drive down from New Port Richey and make a day or evening of it. With a little thought this can be a workable situation for all.

Rick Jones, New Port Richey

[ MORE RAYS: Fans say 'no halfsies, Montreal' ]

Spoiler alert

Sternberg’s “Ex-Rays” pitch is chin-music to the Tampa Bay fans and deserves an ejection warning. It wreaks of another angle at a leverage play to coerce more public funding for a new ballpark. Ironically, the stadium in the middle of it all, Tropicana Field, was used as a potential landing spot for several teams in the 1990’s. Spoiler: All of those teams got their new stadiums.

Ben Power, Tampa

Part time better than nothing

I completely understand where the Rays are coming from. If the funding came together for a stadium in Hillsborough County I’d be overjoyed to see them stay long term and I’m sure they would, too. Failing that, a part-time team in St. Petersburg is better than no team at all. These so-called Rays fans who only watch on TV can watch games from Montreal as easily as from here. Plus, open air baseball!

Scott Nolan, Tampa

The first step out of town

Montreal will build a ballpark and St. Pete won’t build one for a part-time team, so the Rays will leave in the end. The Lighting has shown that in downtown Tampa you can attract a lot of fans. St. Petersburg isn’t the best location. It’s close to tourist areas and too far from full-time residents. Ticket prices are too high. If they were lower, attendance would improve.

Trevor Luthy, Sarasota

What the Rays really are

The Tampa Rays are a real estate venture posed as a baseball team. The Montreal plan allows Rays ownership to ride out an agreement to remain at Tropicana Field through 2027, then collect 50 percent of redevelopment rights for the Trop’s 85-acre site. A city gets fleeced. In the words of poet Allen Ginsberg, “it’s sinister.”

Thomas Hallock, St. Petersburg

Rays fans watch the action by the Rays tank during a 2017 game against Toronto. [Times files (2018)]
Rays fans watch the action by the Rays tank during a 2017 game against Toronto. [Times files (2018)]

Time to get over ourselves

Once we get over ourselves and realize that our area can’t or won’t support baseball full time, we can start to see the beauty and efficiency of supporting spring training and half of the games in a brand new, intimate stadium worthy of our time and money. The old adage is true: What is scarce is more valuable.

Holly J. Young, St. Pete Beach

It’s a numbers game

I honestly can only make 5-10 Rays games a year. We get eight games or less to see the Bucs play at home, so it feels more special with only a few chances to see them. I bet we see more seats filled per game with this idea of Tampa Bay having the team for just 30-40 games.

Brandon Dragustine, Clearwater

[ MORE RAYS: 'Proving to the world we actually have a fanbase' ]

We can’t support three teams

I was a St. Petersburg resident and a Rays season ticket holder from the beginning until in 2013 when I downsized and moved to Hernando County. As a retired business owner, I appreciate Rays ownership. I can only imagine their frustration with the lack of attendance. They have gone out of their way to make their product as affordable as possible. It is obvious now that Tampa Bay is not able to financially support three major league franchises. I commend Stu for coming up with a creative plan that keeps the Rays here for 35 games. I hope our city leaders have the foresight to support this historic compromise which keeps us in the game. We are very fortunate to have a far sighted Rays ownership with the dedication to salvage major league baseball for our community for years to come.

John Kolenda, Timber Pines

Apathy, entitlement created his mess

Shame on those who would rather lose the Rays than share. Dick Vitale, please keep your mouth shut. You are no true fan. Apathy and entitlement are why we are in this mess. I am not a supporter of Mr. Sternberg, nor publicly funding a stadium. However, if we can keep the Rays, even part time, let’s at least explore options. Those saying “leave now” will regret it when they are gone, and probably still complain.

Jason Shibley, St. Petersburg

Sharing the blame

This scenario is partially my fault. We make it to one or two games a year. Excuses are aplenty for working parents. Bridge. Bedtime. Traffic. Meetings. Practices. Many can relate. Despite our dedicated and committed fandom, we’re left hurting even more knowing that we share some of this blame by simply not going to the ballpark. “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone” is rhetoric I hope we in the bay area don’t have to utter anytime soon.

Kevin Keegan Maloney, Tampa

New nickname: The Forward Thinkers

I’m a former season-ticket holder who moved away for work. I don’t see this as a bad thing. Ratings are up and folks aren’t going, so why should it matter if you are still seeing the game from your couch? Stu has worked magic on the field and has always been forward-thinking. This is another example. If you’re mad show up, but the attendance record doesn’t lie. Will see you all in August and at four games in two weeks.

Blaine Stein, Issaquah, Wash.

Let’s do this

Downtown St Pete has seen a huge influx of urban pioneers, visitors and growth. I enjoy the burgeoning city center’s saloons, eateries, museums and Rays (40 games a year for 15 years). I would delighted to walk to a beautifully appointed Al Lang Park to watch waterfront baseball in balmy March, April, May and early June. For years, we’ve been spoiled rotten by Rays’ entertainment value: Free shuttle, all weather, discounted tickets, military and first-responder freebies, air conditioning and even post-season memories. The Al Lang promise is my dream for 2023. Make it happen, Stu.

Gary Harrington, St. Petersburg

Paying for St. Pete, Tampa sins

After 20 years St. Pete and Tampa still cannot form a financial relationship that will enable them to benefit by keeping the team in the area. Now we may be “sisters” with Montreal. The punishment fits the crime!

Joyce Silvey, Largo

The brutal facts

This is getting old. The writing has been on the wall for years. We’re long-time fans but it’s clear Tampa Bay is not a major league market. We’re done.

Ken Duncan, St. Petersburg

J.P. Mailhot,  61, Nathalie Mailot, 51, and their son. J.P. Mailhot Jr., 18, make an annual trip from their home in Montreal to watch the Rays play in St. Petersburg. Their 2019 trip was coincidentally the same week as Sternberg's announcement. ALLIE GOULDING   |   Times
J.P. Mailhot, 61, Nathalie Mailot, 51, and their son. J.P. Mailhot Jr., 18, make an annual trip from their home in Montreal to watch the Rays play in St. Petersburg. Their 2019 trip was coincidentally the same week as Sternberg's announcement. ALLIE GOULDING | Times

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