The Tampa Bay Rays and their fans have never felt at home at Tropicana Field, but it looks as if the team is finally progressing toward a new stadium.
For some time, it looked as if the Tampa Bay Rays‘ search for a new field would take them out of the Tampa Bay area. Just last week, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Rays owner Stu Sternberg’s top five choices for a new stadium are unavailable.
Sternberg remained optimistic, but talks about a possible move continued to cloud the franchise as it prepped for the start of the 2017 season.
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After an impressive showing against the New York Yankees in a 7-3 victory yesterday, Sternberg seems optimistic about staying in Tampa Bay and finalizing plans for a new stadium by the end of this year.
#Rays Sternberg says there has been “steady” progress toward new stadium in Tampa Bay Area, he remains “very optimistic” will happen
“We’re progressing. We have not taken any steps backward. We haven’t gone in reverse,” Sternberg said (via SaintPetersBlog). “The process, I think everyone would like to move along quicker, but it’s moving along steadily. The slope is up. I’m very optimistic we’re going to come up with a solution. It’s something that’ll be a generational type facility.”
Sternberg also added that his only focus is to remain in the Tampa Bay area.
Still, the end of the year is a concerning timeline for a Rays franchise in desperate need of a spark to draw fans to games. Last season, the Rays ranked last in MLB in attendance with 1,286,163 tickets sold – which is roughly 300,000 lower than the Oakland Athletics, who were 29th in attendance.
“Rays owner Stuart Sternberg threw everyone a curve ball last week when he said the team’s top locations for a new stadium are unavailable and the effort to find a site may stretch until the end of the year . . . The last thing anyone wants is a repeat of the Miami Marlins, who settled for a less than desirable site for an expensive new stadium and still are not drawing as well as projected.”
The Marlins ranked 27th in attendance last season and have consistently failed to draw big crowds, despite their expensive new ballpark. The Times’ editorial noted that the best site for a new Rays stadium may very well be right where Tropicana Field is located, as the site is 85 percent publicly owned.
While the future of the Rays’ stadium still isn’t clear, the team should resolve the issue by the end of the year. The Rays aren’t alone in their search for a new stadium, as the Oakland Athletics are in a similar position. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Braves are set to start play in their stadium, while the Texas Rangers will move in the next few years.