Rays Reality

When it comes to the Tampa Bay Rays, we always knew it was about money and commitment when it came to finding a stadium site. The one in Ybor checked a lot of urban-synergy as well as market-hub boxes. But commitment, of course, meant being committed to money. Did we mention money?

So much for the feel-good dynamics and upbeat spin about modest and incremental progress. It’s a near-billion-dollar field of schemes. Nobody in the community has stepped up with 9-figure guarantees. The Rays won’t ante up about half ($450 million MOL), and there’s seemingly no Jeff Vinik waiting in the wings to complete Tampa’s revitalization with a MLB franchise. We’re not talking Opportunity Zones, tax-increment financing and Rays 2020 to the rescue.

So where are we? Likely game (still) on. But the game is zero-sum hard ball. The fact that the Rays used the baseball winter meetings in Las Vegas as an opportunistic forum to formally announce that they are rejecting the plan for an Ybor Stadium spoke leverage volumes. Deadline-extension discussions won’t happen, underscored principal owner Stu Sternberg. And the Rays announcement came in front of the national media with the endorsement of Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred. How’s that for blunt and in-your-face.

The ultimate bottom line: Creating a sense of urgency, and flushing out bucks bigger than what a self-taxing community development district would yield. Otherwise, make your case: Montreal, Las Vegas, Charlotte, San Antonio and Portland, Ore.

BTW, that new Seattle franchise that’s coming into the NHL in 2021 will be playing in the renovated KeyArena. The cost will exceed $800 million. It’s already spoken for–with private funds.

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