Is the end near for St. Petersburg’s as a Major League Baseball city?
The biggest Major League Baseball news that emerged last week was not the World Series. No that’s just a bunch of more important baseball games that are played annually. No the biggest news for Commissioner Rob Manfred and 29 of the 30 owners was the Tampa Bay Rays ownership may have a spot in Tampa for a ballpark. There is a long way to go but Rays’ ownership may be able to leave St. Petersburg at some point in the short term future rather than after the 2027 season. Details are sparse other than the proposed stadium would be located near Tampa’s downtown. But Rays’ ownership isn’t doing any cartwheels or throwing any parties yet.
Hillsborough County still needs to acquire all the land on the proposed 14 acre site and then there is the small matter of how to pay for a baseball park. Getting a stadium built is not cheap; the cost could be a billion dollars or more. Taxpayer money will be spent on the stadium. What will Hillsborough County and maybe Tampa trade in terms of tax incentives in exchange for Rays’ ownership money? Then there is the matter of the Rays existing lease in St. Petersburg. Ten years remain on the lease that was signed in 1995 which required the team to play in the St. Petersburg facility between 1998 and 2027. In the 1980s and 1990s, owners in a number of cities including Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle announced intentions to move to Tampa Bay but nothing ever materialized. Commissioner Peter Ueberroth told St. Petersburg officials not to build a domed baseball stadium. Tampa Bay was passed over in the early 1990s expansion sweepstakes. The region only got a team in a forced expansion in 1995 when a Phoenix stadium funding bill was expiring, Phoenix and St. Petersburg got teams. Identifying a stadium site is just step one.
Will Stu Sternberg be able to tell Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, “we got it, they got it” a new Tampa baseball park?