My opinion on the proposed deal brokered by Mayor Rick Kriseman to let the Tampa Bay Rays explore new stadium sites in the region is, admittedly, at conflict with itself.
On one hand, I believe — and the latest polling backs me up — that the deal is political suicide for Kriseman and any members of the City Council who support the deal. Sixty-five percent of residents are opposed to letting the Rays look at sites in Hillsborough.
On the other hand, I want the Rays, if they are not going to to build a new state-of-the-art site in downtown St. Pete, to hurry up and leave so that the land under Tropicana Field can be redeveloped.
All of that said, Kriseman’s proposal is insufficient. The Rays are only paying the city in the event the club moves, as it undoubtedly will. The Rays are not compensating the city for the right to look elsewhere.
In other words, the Rays are paying to screw St. Pete without taking the city to dinner first.
As Times columnist John Romano writes today about whether it was possible that Kriseman could have gotten more money from the Rays or an assurance that the Rays would pay for the demolition of Tropicana Field? Romano says that may have been “possible, but not likely. This deal took almost a year to negotiate. Holding out for a few bucks more might have been fruitless and could have resulted in the loss of potential stadium sites to other development.”
Maybe Romano is right, maybe he is wrong, but the perception is solidifying that Kriseman and the city did not get enough.
Like so many others, Romano is worried about the region losing the team. I get that. But what I don’t get is how the logic of that argument, as expressed by owner Stu Sternberg, would make the city more willing to make a deal.
Sternberg is essentially saying, if you don’t let me look at moving the club now, I’m just going to sell the club to someone who will move it later.
First of all, thanks dick! How respectful, as Romano describes it, of “the risk and sizable investment” the city has made in Tropicana Field.
Second, it’s not the City Council’s first priority to worry about the team leaving the region. That is a concern, but it cannot be the primary concern.
As Shadow of the Stadium blogger Noah Pransky has written on more than one occasion, every single day that passes in which the Rays play in St. Pete is a win for the taxpayers of the city. Every. Single. Day. The Rays staying in the region is a win for residents who are fans of the baseball team, but that is a smaller universe than all of the taxpayers who would be impacted by the Rays leaving the city.
Is $2 million to $4 million enough to make up for what the city will lose if the Rays lose? I genuinely don’t know. But before we get to that, Sternberg needs to pull out his checkbook and pay for the privilege of finding out.
Otherwise, why is there a contract and lease?