St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster has sent a letter to Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg, inviting him to get together and talk about the proposal for a new ballpark in the Carillon area that was presented last Friday by CityScape. The presentation impressed most observers, though lots of questions remain unanswered (such as how the thing might get paid for).
Last week Foster said he would contact the team after the World Series. But that was when the team was still alive for a playoff spot. But as the season ended Wednesday night, the Rays were on the outside looking in, despite their winning record and the fact that MLB added an additional team to the playoffs in both leagues (go Giants & A's!).
So with the season over, there's no reason for the mayor to wait until Halloween to request that the Rays sit down and talk.
And what will be on Sternberg's mind? You might remember last year after the Rays were eliminated by the Texas Rangers in the playoffs, the New York-based owner went off verbally, blasting the fact that the stands weren't filled for such a huge game. This season the Rays finished dead last in attendance.
The Tampa Tribune's Michael Sasso reports that of the 30 MLB teams, the local group finished the regular season dead last in attendance. But hey, their TV ratings are up!
Folks, this is a serious problem. As much as people don't want to focus on it, the fact is that every other team in baseball, teams that had much worse records than the Rays, drew more people to their yard.
You can go on all day about how the economy is worse off here than in any other part of the country (is that really accurate?), but the arguments for Sternberg looking for a new home are only getting enhanced with the paltry attendance numbers. So the Rays draw well on TV you say, showing there is lots of local interest? That's not good enough.
It was only in the late 1980s when baseball teams began broadcasting their home games on local television. Local cable packages made it profitable for teams to stomach the fact that they might be providing an incentive for fans not to come to their games.
Although people complain about it all the time, there's reason why the NFL keeps its blackout rule in place. They think it would be bad for business to air those games locally if they're not sold out. That's not the case in baseball.
In other news..the issue with how the Tampa Police Department will use its fancy surveillance cameras continues to be challenged by the majority of Tampa City Council. Yesterday council members demanded answers from police chief Jane Castor and city attorney Jim Shimberg about how the cameras will be used going forward. Perhaps if they could, they'd reject their use outright at this point, but they don't have the power to override Mayor Bob Buckhorn on the issue.
Council members also challenged the answers they received from other members of the Buckhorn administration regarding the tree-cutting debacle that took place in Ybor City two weeks ago today.
A new poll released yesterday shows that the two competitive races for Pinellas County Commission are in a dead heat with a little more than four weeks to go before the election.
And one of the more competitive races in Hillsborough County is the battle for supervisor of elections. We've got a story on that race in the current issue of CL.
(Correction: This original post reported that the Bucs would be playing this Sunday at home. In fact, they are off this Sunday).