Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dispatch from St. Pete

I find myself in St. Petersburg for a couple of Rays vs. Padres games, and I have witnessed a collision…not on I-275…rather a pile-up among baseball, politics, demographics and economics.

Rays' owner Stuart Sternberg held a news conference Monday saying it’s time to revive talks about a new ballpark with the proviso that downtown St. Pete is a non-starter…that a new stadium needs to be closer to Tampa or in Tampa.

Raleigh-Durham. Tampa-St. Pete. We have a lot in common…aside from the Bulls-Rays connection. BIG IDEAS that require a regional approach don’t come easy, and they are often incendiary…at least in the early stages.

Here in St. Pete, the mayor has a contract with the Rays playing downtown in the Trop thru 2027, and he’s not budging. However, the truth is on Sternberg’s side. Under his ownership, the Rays have played in the World Series and spent much of this season as the top team in MLB. Yet, the Ray’s attendance isn’t even at the MLB average. Yes, it’s time to talk about a new ballpark.

Even the St. Pete newspaper is editorializing in Sternberg’s favor, and one columnist points out that Tampa is not the enemy. It could be another city (Charlotte was mentioned) that will eventually tempt the Rays to leave FL all together.

Meanwhile, I’m having a great time in St. Pete. The downtown waterfront is awesome. Great ambience…super restaurants…walkable…a nice breeze off the water. Wish you were here…so do the Rays!