St. Petersburg City Council has spoken. They have rejected the Tampa Bay Rays offer as stated in the Memorandum of Understanding that was negotiated. The Rays will not be permitted to look for a stadium outside of St. Petersburg. Based on what I was reading, a positive response from City Council was achievable. The turning point was that no matter if the Rays stay in St. Pete or not, they would have had a 50/50 share in the redevelopment profits of the Trop site. The Rays, not surprisingly, held on to this key negotiating lever, and voila! A deal-breaker!
There was obviously backlash from the media, blaming the city council members. This is a totally normal reaction from passionate baseball fans. I get it. I believe that time will show that no matter what the outcome of the vote, the Rays are leaving the bay area. I have stated my reasoning in other posts. If the vote would have been yes, the Rays would have looked for a “pitch perfect” site in Tampa, and guess what? Three years would have passed and they would not have found a suitable location for a stadium, which would bring them back to where they started: St. Petersburg. Three years later, a so-so TV deal, dwindling attendance, and let’s not forget the increasing talk of expansion.
A “NO” vote speeds up the timeline for the inevitable end game: sale and/or relocation the franchise. Am I certain that it will be in Montreal? No. The time and place for this to happen will be dictated by cold hard dollars. There is nothing romantic or nostalgic about what will happen in 2015 and beyond. We can yell and scream all we want here in Montreal about how MLB-worthy we are. The fate of the Rays from Opening Day 2015 until whenever, will be predicated by the prevailing business case.
If it is more profitable for Sternberg to keep the Rays in St. Pete, play to an empty Trop and bring in some revenue sharing dollars, that’s what will happen. Should there be a business case to sell the team, realize hundreds of millions of dollars in profit from the proceeds of the team’s sale and then see what happens in the courts with the so-called iron-clad Use Agreement, that’s what Sternberg will opt for. It would not be far-fetched for Sternberg to continue to officially call St. Pete the Rays’ home and play their home games in another city, perhaps los Rays de Habana. Here in Montreal, we certainly know that this is a possibility.
There is much to be salvaged by the City of St. Petersburg.
First is to get maximum dollars from the Rays and agree to mutually terminate the Use Agreement. There is no sense talking about economic benefit, that’s all fiction. It’s really about filling up the city coffers, so get it done fast and with as much cash as you can.
Second, is to demolish the Trop and concentrate on urban renewal. St. Pete seems to have a dynamic mayor to make this happen.
Lastly, bid the Rays adieu. The writing is on the wall: the 2015 Tampa Bay Rays are looking more like the 2003 Omar Minaya Expos than a team with solid plans to stay. They don’t want to be there and they have no fan support.
It’s always better to extract a cavity now than deal with root canal later on.
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