Friday, July 25, 2014

Mitch Perry Report 7.25.14: Whatever happened to that Rays stadium story?

Posted By on Fri, Jul 25, 2014 at 9:07 AM

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The rejuvenated Tampa Bay Rays host the Boston Red Sox this weekend in what should be an exciting mid-summer series at Tropicana Field. So now's as good a time as any to reflect on those perennial favorite stories of the Tampa Bay political and sports media establishment — the fight for the Rays to build a new ballpark someplace other than in downtown St. Petersburg, and oh yeah, the crummy attendance figures.

Wait, you say. That's not a story this year! And if you're measuring by the number of inches devoted to such events  in the Tribune or Times, you'd be correct.  But that doesn't mean it's any less relevant in 2014 than it has been in the past few years, does it? Perhaps because interest in the Rays (until their recent winning streak) has ebbed this year? Perhaps because it was more fun to rap Bill Foster than Rick Kriseman? Why is there less focus on stadium issues in 2014?

One could argue that all those countless hours of discussion about a stadium were essentially pointless, since with the exception of certain events like the ABC Coalition report on possible locations for a new park or the Tampa/St. Pete Chamber of Commerce report on possible funding sources for said stadium, the rest of the coverage over the years has proven to be mostly empty and incredibly redundant (who could forget the hyperbole over landowners in Channelside like Claire Clements back in 2010?)

Okay, enough about the past. Going into tonight's game, the Rays’ average home attendance is 16,901 a game. That's dead last among the 30 MLB franchises, some 1,400 fewer fans than the next worst team, the Cleveland Indians. That's something that is hardly ever discussed anymore, just taken for granted. 

As far stadium negotiations, Mayor  Kriseman told me last month that discussions with top Rays brass would resume at some point later this summer, but realistically — with the team nearly two thirds into the season, a wild card bid still in the offing and the fate of David Price still to be decided, such negotiations would figure to be on the backburner. Any negotiations will probably revolve around the plan that Mayor Foster tried to broker last year, and that Councilman Charlie Gerdes proposed, deadlocking the Council at 4-4. That plan would have the Rays compensate St. Pete for the right to negotiate with officials in the city of Tampa.

If that were ultimately to happen...well, that's another fanciful set of speculations that can wait for another day — or another month, or another year... 

In other news…
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn unveiled his FY2015 proposed budget yesterday, and through a few neat fiscal maneuvers, was able to resist cutting into reserves for the first time since the recession rocked Tampa seven years ago.

The Florida Democratic Party is reviving a request from the 2010 campaign calling for Rick Scott to release a deposition transcript he gave regarding his former company Solantic.

And our annual Music Issue is out this week. Our contribution is an interview with NYC-based rock journalist Marc Spitz regarding his new book about the twee generation.

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