Keeping the Rays
Several recent Tampa Tribune articles have excellently covered the stadium issue of our Tampa Bay Rays, a consistently winning team for five years. Yet by no fault of the Rays, the team has the worst fan attendance numbers in all of Major League Baseball.
The Rays have low ticket prices, allow bottled water and food to be brought into Tropicana Field, and provide a family friendly product and atmosphere. I was shocked to learn the entire city of St. Petersburg contributes only 300 season ticket accounts for about 1,000 people total.
Keeping professional sports teams in the Tampa Bay area is key to drawing other big-ticket events and businesses that help keep the region economically viable and an attractive place to live and visit.
While I have no issues with the Trop as a facility and attend 16 to 18 weekend and holiday games with friends and family each year, the stadium is rapidly becoming obsolete, and the St Pete location has proven to be the kiss of death for attendance.
St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster is flat wrong to expect the Rays to stay in his city without adequate local support, and if allowed to stand, his position will nail the coffin shut for MLB teams in the Tampa Bay area.
A new baseball stadium in Hillsborough County that is a multi-purpose facility (less football) financed by taxpayers should be put up for a vote soonest. Like Raymond James Stadium, a taxpayer-"financed" stadium does not mean taxpayers ultimately pay for it, as like renting a house, the main tenants and other users who rent the facility more than pay the costs of the facility over time.
Instead of being stranded on a peninsula, this new stadium (in downtown Tampa or in east Hillsborough near I-75/fairgrounds) would be very accessible by residents of the additional counties of Pasco, Polk and Orange while remaining close to Bradenton and Sarasota.
It also would be at the center-point of the daily commute for weekday games, which would allow working families to attend games more often than just Saturday, Sunday and holidays.
The statistics have shown fans are interested. Bringing the game closer to where they live should do wonders for attendance.
With a larger fan base that could actually attend weekday games, we could also expect local businesses to invest more in season tickets.
It would be a shame to lose our Rays due to the stubborn ignorance of one person, and if they go, we will never get another pro sports team in the region.
Fred W. Van Cleave
High-paying jobs the key
I think many of our government leaders are missing the point of the Rays staying in St. Pete or moving to Tampa. Why will the attendance improve in Tampa? What is the real reason behind the lack of attendance? I think it has nothing to do with the location of the stadium. The per capita income of Tampa is only $26,000 while St. Petersburg is $25,400 and Clearwater $25,500. How does one with a low income afford to go to a game, much less afford season tickets?
If the mayor wants the Rays to stay, he needs to attract companies that pay high wages. That is the only way to improve season ticket sales.
When one is working during the day, how will they be able to go to a game? Or work 8 to 5 and then attempt to get the family ready for a game at 6? Factor in the price of tickets, parking, food and drinks and you have priced this out of most families' reach. Yes, they can go once in a while but not on a regular basis, as will be required to keep the Rays.
Yes, we can spend taxpayer money on a new stadium in Tampa, but what makes people think the attendance will improve? It is not the drive, but the fact that the area does not have high-paying jobs. Until the employment outlook improves, the attendance will be low.
So mayors, let's get on the ball and attract more high-paying jobs to the area. Attendance at both the Rays and Bucs games might improve. The city that attracts the most high-paying jobs should then get the stadium.
Is St. Petersburg' "Central Avenue Revitalization Plan" trying to "unify" Central Avenue or "militarize" it? There are rumblings about people who want to control the murals that street artists are painting. I understand the generation gap aspects (older people hate the murals, and younger people love them). The answer is for older people to put up the money for murals they would like.
It would be divisive to have a "Mural Authority" that requires pre-approval of sketches, won't allow community murals (like the Woo Mural) or try to pressure building owners to reject street artists' murals on their buildings.
The Tampa Bay Rays will not be in downtown St. Pete in the future. Cultural tourism will be the main focus in St. Pete, and Central Avenue, with its own trolley, could be a major draw for tourists of all types if the art along it represents the interests of all the visitors.
Malcolm R. Johnson