The Tampa Bay Rays Need Our Support.

The Rays have a special place in the hearts of Tampa Bay area residents. Whether they end up in Hillsborough or remain in Pinellas, They are Pasco's team too.

How would you feel if the Tampa Bay Rays were sold and moved out of the Tampa Bay area?  How does the Las Vegas Rays sound?  Or, how about the San Antonio Rays?

Sure, the Rays aren’t moving tomorrow. They probably may not be moving at all.  But the prospect of relocating the franchise to a market more suitable to financially support a winning baseball team is a rumor that many Bay area baseball fans find unsettling.  The woe of the Rays has very little to do with baseball.  Rather, it is the stadium and the surrounding area of downtown St. Petersburg that draws ire instead of attendance.  The owner of the Rays, Stuart Sternberg, has made it abundantly clear that St. Petersburg offers little sustainability for a professional baseball team.  He has proposed a stadium more centrally located within the heart of a populace.

Distance between a product and a demographic doesn’t work.  The problem, in spite of Sternberg’s statistical data that aims to disprove St. Pete’s viability as a place where baseball can thrive, is St. Pete mayor Bill Foster’s insistence that the Rays remain bound by their lease to St. Pete until 2027.  He strongly believes that The Rays can achieve strong attendance levels in St. Pete, whether they play at Tropicana Field or the proposed site of Carillon Park.  Sternberg is thus not supposed to look anywhere outside of the city limits for a possible site to build a new stadium and relocate his team.  Sternberg won’t consider sites in St. Pete until he is allowed to consider options outside the city, to which he is most likely referring to Tampa.

New leases are usually sought when old leases expire.  The stadium standoff is complicated further by the ever popular question of who will pay for the new stadium.  If revenue isn’t reaching profitable levels now, isn’t it within the realm of possibility that overestimating the revenue boost in a new location could further cripple such a small market franchise?  What if state funds, private investments, and tax contributions are poured into a stadium that sees the same attendance levels as Tropicana Field? There aren’t guarantees.  We don’t need a new stadium to build a winning team.  We already have a winning team.  Our primary concern should be the lack of love we are willing to show in support of our team.  That’s right, the Rays are our team too, New Port Richey.  We deserve to shoulder some of the blame for the weak attendance.

Ideally, Mayor Foster, Mayor Buckhorn, the Rays organization, and the fans all want the same thing: Major League baseball in Tampa Bay for generations to come.  By proving that the Bay area and professional baseball are good for each other, that mission can be achieved.

The average fan has little say in what the eventual stadium solution will be; we’l let the county commissioners, mayors, and Stuart Sternberg figure that out.  The attendance is up to us.  A vast majority of the revenue comes from us. All we have to do is fill the seats.  We love the Rays, but positive opinions aren’t enough to anchor a team.

Sentimentality is a great thing, but it didn’t keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn, or the North Stars in Minnesota.  I don’t think any of us want to prove Mayor Foster wrong.  He loves his city. The Rays have always played in St. Pete.  If it wasn’t for St. Pete, The Rays wouldn’t even exist.  Moving them to Tampa would be an admission that baseball failed at its original location.  But if they do relocate to Tampa, that might yet be a good thing.  A new stadium in a more densely populated city, albeit adjacent to the old one, might rejuvenate interest throughout the entire region.

The Lightning do very well in downtown Tampa. We don’t want The Rays to leave Tampa Bay. That’s going to be our bottom line. We must make up our minds to fit a ball game or two into our lists of priorities. Let the issues plaguing the Rays unite us rather than divide us.  It isn’t a battle between Hillsborough and Pinellas.  The Rays are a part of all of us. Think of what we have for a moment.

We have a fun team.  The most fun team in the Majors.

The Rays act as though winning is a by -product of having fun.  Their themed road trips and clubhouse antics give them a personality and reputation that other teams don’t have.

Remember the choreographed leotard dance in front of the Green Monster at Fenway in Boston?

I’m sure the Red Sox do.  At a time when the Red Sox were experiencing a tumultuous rift between players and management, the Rays reminded the locals that baseball should be fun.  Remember the run to the World Series in 2008 and the playoff clinching win over the Yankees on the last day of the season in 2011 (widely regarded as the best night in baseball history)?

Remember Evan Longoria throwing his arms up as he rounded the bases after his game winning twelfth inning home run?  The Rays came back from a seven run deficit in that game.

A little extra support from the fans of New Port Richey won’t solve the problem, but a show of faith from our neck of the woods would only strengthen the Bay area resolve that Rays baseball is ours.  Out of state markets will have to bid for their own expansion team.  The Rays belong in Tampa Bay.

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Christopher Davis February 04, 2013 at 08:23 PM
That is an excellent comment, Hugh. They don't even link Bay area counties outside of Pinellas and Hillsborough to the attendance issues. It's weird that a place called Steinbrenner Field occupies some of the better sports complex real estate in the area. I feel guilty that I can't make it to St. Pete to watch The Rays play, but a fan shouldn't feel guilty for something like that. St. Pete officials take credit for bringing Major League Baseball to Tampa Bay, but they didn't. They brought Major League Baseball to St. Petersburg. I'm not advocating a season ticket holder boom in New Port Richey. My personnal goal is make it to one or two more home games than I have in previous seasons.
michael mirra February 05, 2013 at 01:31 AM
I too find the trip from West Pasco too far, but I will attempt to get to at least one, or two games because we may not have the Team much longer. I agree, that the Yankees should be run out of the Tampa Bay area. They even broadcast their games on 820 AM here. That really pisses me off. The most upsetting part is that so many people ignore the Rays & root for the Yankees & they live here. My own cousins think that they are still NYers, but have lived here for 35 years. My neighbor, across the street has lived here for about 15 yrs & is still a Yankee fan. My best friend's old ex lives in St. Pete & is a Yankee fan. I hold my tongue, but it really pisses me off when I see a guy with a Yankee hat on. If these people supported the team in the city where they live, there would be no problem with fan support. Also, Pinellas is water to the West. No one lives West of the Stadium out on the Gulf. Moving them inland means people will live in ALL directions around them. The lightning attendance was just as bad till they moved to downtown Tampa. Screw St. Pete. I want to keep the Team in Tampa Bay & downtown Tampa offers that.
michael mirra February 05, 2013 at 01:35 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uifSUH5dDmk Tampa Bay Rays-America's Team
Michael Malterer February 06, 2013 at 02:30 PM
McMullen Booth all the way down is a much easier drive.
TBL35 February 07, 2013 at 03:45 PM
As someone else noted, eastlake/mcmullen is the way to go. I find it faster to go see the rays than the lightning from our area. Either way, the excuses annoy me. If you're a fan, you go to at least a few games, regardless.


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