Rays owner Stu Sternberg - foul or fair?

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Foster took a hard-line approach to the matter, saying "like it or not, we are married and joined at the hip until 2027.'' I’m thrilled that his metaphor was a loveless, contractual relationship. The Rays, in the form of Sternberg, have asked for a chat as the dutiful, respectful partner that knows a change is necessary. “Let’s talk,” the Rays said. The city of St. Petersburg, in the form of Foster, refused in a show of bombastic attitude, replying by spitting in its partner’s face and screeching “Oh no you di’int!”


Let’s lay this bare: St. Petersburg is spoiled. The fans have gotten used to having the team in their backyard. The local businesses and restaurants have flourished on game nights – oh wait, Ferg’s is the only place worth going within a reasonable distance… so much for that point. The city has reaped the benefits, whatever they may be, and have grown accustomed to it. Residents live and think only in a culture of self: what’s in it for me? They don’t want to relinquish the world of convenience they love so much. Consider this: if the team is forced to fold or move, who benefits? The new city. Who loses? Everyone in Tampa Bay. Is it worth strangling what you love to keep it close? S&M fans, feel free not to answer that.


I’ve heard Pinellas Rays fans make the argument that if we on the other side of the bay were dedicated enough fans, we wouldn’t bitch so much about the drive and would do it more often. Well it doesn’t take Aristotle to find the logical flaw in that argument: if Pinellas fans are so dedicated, they will gladly make the drive over the bridge and continue to support the team in the event that a Tampa site is chosen for a new ballpark. Sorry if I caught what you slipped by your second-grade cousin in debate practice. You can charge that people are lazy or that they lack dedication right now, but let’s see how quickly you change your tune when faced with a 45-minute commute after the traffic jam outside the 11-inning marathon when you have to be up for work at 6 a.m.


The fact of the matter is bringing the Rays to the Tampa side of Tampa Bay not only makes my life more convenient – although that is the most important aspect – it opens the team up to new markets. A Tampa/Hillsborough site broadens geographic access. The difference in distance for Clearwater, Bradenton and Sarasota fans is negligible, but it would then be more convenient to eastern Pasco residents and would open the door to Polk and Hernando county residents, maybe even baseball fans from Orlando. What is on the other side of St. Petersburg? Oh yeah, the Gulf of Mexico, so unless you’re planning on getting actual stingrays and eagle rays to come out and support the team based on its former aquatic namesake, you don’t really open any doors that way.


Average attendance would double overnight. The team would have access to a greater array of potential sponsors in local businesses. Most importantly, I would be able to attend more games.


At the end of the day, this is all speculation and opinion. Sternberg simply asked for a dialogue on the matter. This was not an aggressive action – unlike the response from mayor Foster. Sternberg wants everyone to sit down at the table – and from his rhetoric he wants everyone to have a place at that table. Discussion, ideas, brainstorming, spitballing, cognitive activity! His approach is to create a forum for any and all ideas – except for downtown St. Pete – so that the best interest of the fans as a community and the team as a viable business venture can best be met at the same time. Can you really ask for anything else?


Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg finally addressed the media Monday, June 21, on the topic of a new stadium after meeting with St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster. Anyone who missed the 12:15 p.m. press conference this afternoon can get a good grasp of the goings-on from Creative Loafing’s Mitch Perry or check out the video from ABC Action News on YouTube. See them for the factual stuff; anything after this is pure fan-inspired opinion.

The bare bones of Sternberg’s statement detailed that a winning Rays team did not improve attendance at Tropicana Field and that downtown St. Petersburg is not a viable option for the team’s future. Sternberg said “we must rise above municipal boundaries” – cough “leave St. Petersburg” – and “work together for a common interest.” Speaking in the third person, he added, “Major League Baseball in the region in Tampa Bay does not belong to Stu Sternberg. Just like it doesn’t belong to St. Petersburg, or Tampa, or Pinellas, or Hillsborough. It is a regional asset. It belongs to our fans in the region.” The big man said, in essence, that we must be open to all ideas – except St. Petersburg.

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