Will the 2016 season be the last for the Rays in St. Petersburg?

 the-trop

I was expecting the time leading up to the Christmas Holidays to be quiet in regards to the fate of the Tampa Bay Rays and the ever more plausible scenario that the Rays will eventually be sold and relocated to Montreal.  A St. Petersburg city council vote to allow the Rays to explore sites outside of the county was expected to be favorable.  This would have started a three-year journey for the Rays to look at alternate sites to build a stadium across the bridge in Tampa.  This was not the case and a political dust up ensued.  There was a call for a cooling off period.  In my opinion, there is no need for cooling off nor a three year analysis for sites in Tampa.  I talk about this in another post.  The damage has been done over the course of the last six years.  Consider the Rays gone.

I am not alone with this opinion.  Accomplished journalists like Bill Madden state it very directly:

“With no prospects for a new stadium, the Rays are doomed and might as well trade Ben Zobrist, a free agent after next year, and even Evan Longoria. Nobody will care. Here’s an educated prediction: Owner Stu Sternberg sells the team and, in three years, the Rays are playing in Montreal.”

A bold statement indeed.  Recall that Madden first broke the story about Sternberg meeting with Wall Street associates about moving the Rays to Montreal.  I am convinced that many other journalists that are not from the bay area agree but are staying silent.  The Rays are purging payroll and like Madden, I would not be surprised if either of Longoria, Loney, or Zobrist are traded away before long.  This is exactly what happened from 1999 – 2003 when the writing was on the wall in Montreal and we ended up losing our team to Washington.

After that fateful vote, many in the Tampa / St. Pete media stated that there is still plenty of time, 2027 is a long way down the road.  The Rays can never get out of the Use Agreement.  Besides, Montreal has neither an ownership group nor a stadium, they said.  Well Montreal does have an ownership group lined up.  One of the potential owners, Bell Media, is flush with cash and will instantly broaden the team’s reach from 2 million people in the bay area to 30 million across Canada.

What about a stadium?  Last Friday during a radio broadcast, the mayor or Montreal, Denis Coderre dropped some subtle hints about baseball and baseball stadium(s).  First, he wants to improve the baseball infrastructure in Montreal, spruce up the parks, better fields, better draining, etc.  Building from the ground up, he called this.  Coderre also wants to be the host of high level baseball, and “…non! pas de Can-Am”, he states emphatically, referring to the Can-Am Independent Baseball League.  Certainly, Coderre wants to see the World Baseball Classic in 2017 in Montreal and more professional baseball beyond that.

There is also this pesky issue about fixing the roof at Olympic Stadium.  The price tag for this is about $400M.  The Mayor talked about the possibility of going roofless, avoid the expenses for repair and maintenance.  He also has 2026 FIFA Soccer in his sights.  So the question remains: Fix the roof or put the $400M towards a baseball stadium?  Coderre, a deft politician, skated away from a response.  During the interview all other questions were answered unequivocally.  Not the stadium question.  Something is simmering and we await for some sort of an announcement.

I have been following the situation in St. Petersburg intently.  Why did so few citizens speak at City Council on December 18?  One report had it at only eight people!  I have read some of the citizens’ comments about the stadium saga and they are giving Sternberg much more credit about his business savvy than the media chooses to report.  Citizens know that the writing is on the wall.  On Shadow of the Stadium, one of the best written blogs anywhere, a commenter wrote:

“… why would a businessman continue putting up with this and continue trying what hasnt worked in the past? they are not staying at the Trop until 2027, thats for sure.”

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