Yet another group of influential local businesspeople have stepped up to find a Tampa Bay Rays ballpark solution — but St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster continues to oppose any development that calls for the team to leave the increasingly decrepit Tropicana Field.
The group, the Clutch Hitters, was formed to encourage businesses to buy season tickets to Rays games. They’re shifting course to become directly involved in lobbying efforts to seek a new-ballpark solution for the Rays and have already met with Foster about a new facility.
Most folks in the Tampa Bay area — save, famously, Foster — believe the Rays need a new ballpark to financially thrive. There’s an impasse between the city and the team; owner Stuart Sternberg says any quest for a new ballpark needs to cover the entire metro area, while Foster says he’s willing to look at sites within St. Pete.
There are several groups involved in plotting a Rays ballpark, including the local chambers of commerce. At some point, though, someone needs to come up with a real plan with a real funding base and a real chance to succeed. It’s one thing to approach the issue in a low-key fashion in order to maintain good relations, as the Rays have done, but it’s another to be so passive that nothing happens. The Rays have already given the fan base the signal they feel the Trop is inadequate — and despite that, attendance is up more than 10 percent a game this season, at 25,658 fans a game — and with the (reasonable) insistence that a ballpark solution be considered as a metrowide issue, it’s time to heat things up. A visit from Bud Selig pointing out the inadequacies of the Trop probably won’t hurt.
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