Much has been made of the unfortunate location of the Rays’ present-day ballpark. Complaints of travel and environs recalling oppressive architectural principals from the 1970s that felt anachronistic from the moment the team first took the field have long rendered Tropicana Field a relic.
For a sport that derives so much its sublimity from its pastoral foundation, The Trop—a domed abortive hellscape by any measure, objective and subjective alike—has yet to allow a ray of light through its dim, lifeless exterior, the club’s owners and architects purported to jointly be falling back upon the misplaced hope that the product on the field would provide that light.
Despite the club’s second name so actively running from the Devil, no such light was provided. Not even four trips to the playoffs between the 2008 and 2013 seasons could manage the feat.
Still, like the good soldiers they are, the Rays trudged through grueling campaign after grueling campaign, a Ray’s Sisyphean existence seeing relief only in the form of trade or death. Their day-to-day was a bleak one, at the service of a vainglorious tyrant and in a shrine to his lack of imagination. Employing cutting edge training programs implemented and shepherded by Grigory Rodchenkov, the Rays were built on whatever strengths they were able to engineer. That their matches played out in a coliseum fit more for the most depressing of monster truck rallies than for a game as beautiful as baseball mattered little. Meeting certain results was a fact of life. Victory expected, fan[s?] in attendance or not. Anything less was unacceptable. An extra two percent was demanded of every Ray.
The planned abandonment of the soulless, domed abomination comes at a time of increased scrutiny regarding their shadowy group of limited partners comprising 37% of the ownership group. As Russia’s reported tampering in the 2016 election continues to dominate the news cycle, the optics of having one of Major League Baseball calling St. Petersburg, Russia home has grown to be untenable after over a year of Russia-related political animus, stoking a new Cold War. Whispers of late have a stateside group of titans of industry working behind closed doors to buy out the clandestine group of Russian oligarchs with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The continuation of Russia’s profiting from America’s pastime threatens the league’s well-being, teetering precariously on the precipice, a descent into the kind of protest and public outcry from which a return may not be possible.
While the new site is located in a place called Ybor City, the internet assures its users that Ybor City is, in fact, in Florida despite its decidedly Soviet-sounding name. While this may be yet another nefarious attempt by Russian agit-prop ne’er-do-wells to sow the seeds of disinformation, there appears to be no reason at present to disbelieve claims that this new ballpark will actually be located near central Tampa, reportedly lying just northeast of downtown.
When asked about how the prospective news of the Rays’ move from St. Petersburg might affect the Royals going forward, Royals General Manager Dayton Moore praised the move. “There is no denying that venturing into the lion’s den is a gigantic stressor in an already lengthy slog of a season,” intimated Moore. “Travel is always trying, but to be asked to play baseball in that dingy eyesore puts a real stink on what would already have been a tiresome road trip. And the planes? They put that flying scene in Major League to shame.”
When asked about what was unique about the experience of playing baseball in Russia, Moore quickly answered, “It has to be the pornography. It’s everywhere. The single greatest threat to the well-being of our men lurks behind every corner of the Russian streets.” After a pause, he wistfully added, “It’ll be so nice to have Blaine Boyer around this season.”
Upon following up with the note that the internet has lots of that stuff, Moore shot a quizzical look and said simply, “The what?”
The general consensus at One Kauffman Way seemed to be that this move would be nothing but positive for the team, as the annual trips to St. Petersburg were the subject of dread for weeks leading up to the series. Players consistently felt as though they were being watched wherever they went off the field, and the fierce hunger and menace that the opposition presented while donning the Rays uniform bordered on horrifying.
For the Royals and presumably the Rays, any distancing from St. Petersburg and the Rays’ dark past has to be looked upon with relief, signaling a brighter future on the horizon.
Rays principal owner, Stuart Sternberg, made the official announcement on Friday at a press conference. As reported by The Tampa Bay Times, Sternberg proudly shared “Ybor City is authentically Tampa Bay,” and “This is where we want to be playing baseball.”
It will take some time for the relocation to genuinely develop, but this proclamation officially begins the process. The estimated timetable for execution is roughly five years.
One of the most crucial steps the organization must take is raising the proper funds to fund the project. Providing a much-needed jumpstart for the project’s capital demands is the non-profit organization Tampa Bay Rays 2020.
Non-profit organization Tampa Bay Rays 2020 Movement According to their website, their mission is to be “the catalyst that will ensure the ballpark becomes a reality. America’s favorite pastime needs a home for generations to come in one of the country’s fastest-growing cities.”
The team behind the movement is Sykes Enterprises President and CEO Chuck Sykes, Tampa attorney Ron Christaldi and Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan.
The endorsement of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn validates the legitimacy of the organization and their serious mission.
Following the announcement, Buckhorn said “This is an exciting day for Tampa and more importantly a great day for our region. I look forward to working with Stu [Sternberg] and others across the region to ensure this dream of a downtown ballpark becomes a reality.”
Sports Illustrated’s Jenna West confirmed the Rays still do not know how much funding the team would need to construct a new ballpark. However, Sternberg did mention before the team may contribute $150 million towards the project’s $800 million budget.
It will definitely take some time for the project to seriously develop because there are still plenty of obstacles in the way. For example, the city and team still need to figure out how they are going to divide the expenses between one another.
According to ESPN, the Rays 15,760 average home game attendance in 2017 was the lowest among the league.
It will be difficult for the franchise to pay a significant portion of the bill if they continue to struggle with ticket sales.
Trading away their premier franchise player Evan Longoria this off-season to the San Francisco Giants will probably not help the cause as we head into 2018. The Rays are not expected to be competitive [VIDEO] in the AL East this season after a busy off-season for the New York Yankees, while the Boston Red Sox remain a powerful division rival.
It’s a rough time for Florida baseball, as even the Miami Marlins are running a fire-sale after selling their organization to the Derek Jeter led ownership group. The Marlins next move is reported to be a trade shipping catcher J.T. Realmuto elsewhere [VIDEO] for cash relief and much-needed prospects.
Some Marlins fans have even abandoned the team after this deflating winter. Now could be the time for the Tampa Bay Rays to really grow a larger fan base as they build a new home.
What fans and prospective supporters can do to help the baseball team build their new home is visit the Tampa Bay Rays 2020 website for more info or send an e-mail to [email protected]
Similar to what most professional sports teams do when a planned movement is set to occur, they will begin to dump their payroll salary. The Rays probably knew they were going to get the approval to move to Ybor City soon, so they had to get rid of Longoria’s expensive salary.
The small market team cannot afford large chunks of their payroll budget going to one player at this time. Any players making close to a $1 million in salary now can be considered on the trade market. In return, the Rays will want cash considerations and cheap prospects.
This will continue until the Rays have enough funds to start the construction project. This means fans should not expect the front office at least to focus on winning titles anytime soon. One can assume the players will continue to play to win as many games as they can.