It‘s a messy situation. The Tampa Bay Rays wanted a new stadium in downtown Tampa, but wanted the city to pay for it, an idea that the city was naturally not particularly fond of. At first it looked like it might actually come to fruition, but now it’s dead. They’re now forced to keep playing in one of the worst stadiums in the Majors until their lease runs out in 2027. A stadium that’s not even in Tampa and which requires a drive in traffic past a narrow bridge to get to. Worse, there’s not even public transportation to get there. Did I say “worse”, because it also gets “much” worse: Tampa is a city of transplants who typically cheer for teams from their hometowns. In fact, most fans choose teams early early and the Rays have only been in existence for 21 years. An existence during which they were terrible for the first decade.
Had the Tampa Bay Rays played in a different division, things may have been better, but being a small market team in the same division as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox is a disaster from the start. Unsurprisingly, they never won a World Series. It’s bad enough when they’re playing poorly, but even when they’re playing well they’re still competing for last place in attendance. Bad stadium, bad attendance, small fanbase, they check every box for a team that has to relocate.
What is going to happen? For now probably not much, Tampa Bay/St.Petersburg don’t seem interested in letting the Rays leave and aren’t in support of the dual city plan. This is indeed getting “silly” as the article states however, it’s clear to anyone at this point that the team needs to relocate. Right now it appears that this situation is going to be heading to court in the foreseeable future, which will be costly and ultimately largely pointless for all sides, when the solution is so obvious and simple.
What is the solution? I don’t think that it’s even debatable at this point that the team is simply not profitable in Tampa Bay. If the city and the team refuse to pay for an Ybor City stadium and they can’t agree on another good location and who pays for what, what is the point of the Rays staying? The fanbase will only decline with the news that the team is planning to play on Montreal and that’s not fair for them or the team. If the Rays announce that they’re staying and playing all of their home games in Tropicana Field, they’ll continue to have horrible attendance as they always had. All that this is doing is giving Tampa Bay a bad reputation and keeping the team from making the money that they need to compete in their division. Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg should simply ask the team to buy out their lease and let them leave. In the meantime, Major League Baseball needs to do everything that they can to help the Rays leave Tampa Bay as soon as possible.