The Tampa Bay Rays have been chomping at the bit for years to get out of Tropicana Field. Attendance has always lagged at the indoor stadium, a stadium that while fitted for baseball, hardly feels like baseball.
But previous ownership signed a long-term deal with the City of St. Petersburg, some 20 miles or so from Tampa, to play in the Trop until 2027 with a crazy-expensive buyout option.
The team, which has always struggled financially, due in part to the location and general crappiness of the Trop (we've been there), has wanted to look at locations in Tampa for years. Tampa has a much bigger population base than St. Petersburg and is much easier to get to.
But the City has held up the search....
St. Pete Mayor Rick Kreisman has a deal in hand with the team that would allow them to search for new stadium locations in the Tampa/St. Pete area and allow them to leave Tropicana Field.
Yes, there'd be compensation; $4 million a year for the 1st 3 years, $3 million the next 3 and $2 million the final three years left on the lease. And it calls for the team, should they land in Tampa, to essentially allow promotional items for St. Petersburg to be placed in the new facility.
But the deal would work for both parties though it has yet to be approved by the St. Pete City Council. Which appears likely.
Read more from TampaBay.com RIGHT HERE
The deal also specifies the Rays have until the end of 2017 to come up with a site or the agreement is nullified. We don't expect that to happen.
Tampa has more than enough population and business wise to support the baseball team. And it also makes the Rays easier to access from Orlando and points east. Very few of those people were willing to drive across I-4 and then navigate Tampa traffic to drive another half hour to St. Pete. A Tampa location would change that.
It gives the Rays a fighting chance. Long one of the lowest budgeted teams in Major League Baseball, they've managed to scrape together good teams. But anytime they had a player become a star, the Rays traded him before having to pay the price.
If they can get a new park, with new revenue, look for that to change.
WTSP-TV in Tampa/St. Pete gives us a TV explanation: