Now that he’s playing for the San Francisco Giants, Evan Longoria–arguably the greatest Tampa Bay Ray ever–says the team might be better off leaving the Tampa-St. Pete market, or at the very least explore a new-ballpark site along Dale Mabry Highway, by Raymond James Stadium.
Longoria, a Ray for a decade before being traded to the Giants this offseason, was the face of the franchise during his time with the team, both on and off the field. He spent many a night playing at Tropicana Field before small crowds–the opposite of his current tenure with the Giants. During that time, he saw several ballpark plans fall short for various reasons. He questions whether Tampa Bay can support a new ballpark, and says that if the decision is made to keep the team in the area, it should be located in Tampa–but not in Ybor City. From the Tampa Bay Times:
“It pains me to say that, but players want to play in a place where you have consistent support,” Longoria said. “It’s a selfish thing to say probably as a player, but, I don’t know, does anyone really want to play in front of 10,000 a night? I don’t know. I’m glad I won’t have to hear the backlash again this time (for making comments about attendance, as when he played there).
“There are a lot of dedicated Rays fans … and obviously it would be a shame for those people to lose the team. But you just hope there is consistent fan support, and it historically hasn’t been there. I don’t know that it’s the easiest case to lobby to build a new stadium in the area. It’s not a slam dunk.”…
“I think they should move across the street from Raymond James (Stadium, on Dale Mabry Highway),” he said. “They should build a stadium that looks just like Houston, or very similar to (Minute Maid Park, which has a retractable roof). You can’t play outside there (in Tampa Bay), it has to be a retractable. And obviously it should be grass. If you can do it in Houston you can do it in Florida – you can grow grass in Florida indoors.
An intriguing notion, but there’s no indication the team has considered a new ballpark near near Raymond James Stadium.
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