Since his move from the Sports page to the Metro page, Joe Henderson from the Tampa Tribune has written increasingly poignant columns on the stadium saga. And this weekend, he admits he may have been wrong assuming St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster was “a parochial lightweight who would get rolled if it looked like the Rays might actually try to leave the area.”
Henderson, who was critical of Foster’s leadership in June 2010 and said the “stadium (issue) was a legitimate concern” earlier in 2010, writes now that it’s time for the Rays and Stuart Sternberg to bring something to the table for St. Pete. He indicates Foster is probably right for putting the interests of St. Pete above the interests of the region:
So the next time Sternberg and Foster meet, the first item shouldn’t be the lease amendment the Rays asked for Thursday so they could explore sites in Hillsborough County. Sternberg, a very persuasive fellow, should look across the table at the mayor and ask, “What will it take?”
I would start negotiations by asking Sternberg to use his considerable business acumen to create a vision for the site of the Trop, like he tried to do five years ago. Maybe you make it a true partnership by demanding he invest in the new project.
In return, the Rays get to look anywhere around here they wish.
This isn’t just about getting a grand new ballpark, even as badly as the Rays need one. Everyone has to win for this to work, and right now St. Petersburg is first in line.
Henderson now gets what many local media types don’t: that the stadium saga is a long and painful one. He’s written that finding land for a new stadium is easy, but the financial and political issues are much harder to negotiate. He’s written that contraction of the Rays is “never going to happen.” And he’s written that nice never works in teams’ campaigns for new stadiums.
Henderson has even argued “taxpayers have paid for enough stadiums,” but my money is still on taxpayers in Hillsborough or Pinellas Counties (or both) footing a good chunk of the bill for a new Rays stadium. We just don’t know where, when, or how.