Strike ’em out: Full-time baseball won’t work in Tampa or St. Pete, Charlie Gerdes says

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He's happy to let Tampa take another stab.

St. Petersburg City Council Chair Charlie Gerdes doesn’t think the Tampa Bay Rays can have high enough attendance at home games whether they have a brand new stadium in St. Petersburg or Tampa.

He said during a Café Con Tampa talk Friday that the team’s only hope for success in the Tampa Bay region might be to play a split season in Montreal.

The team previously floated an idea that would split home games between Montreal and Tropicana Field, but St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman scoffed at the idea.

Some fans also balked, arguing the city and its taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for a new stadium if the team isn’t fully committed to playing its full season in it.

“[Hillsborough has] a problem with a revenue source, but their geography is primo,” Gerdes said.

On the contrary, St. Pete has a potential revenue source, but it’s location within the region leaves too few fans within a 30-minute drive from the stadium.

Pinellas County has long had available tourism bed tax dollars to help fund a stadium. Hillsborough County wanted to leverage community redevelopment dollars as well as tap potential private sources, a plan the Rays rejected.

And whatever ends up happening, has to get the OK from not just the Rays, but the entire Major League Baseball.

“If the team moves from Pinellas to Hillsborough, Charlie says attendance is not going to meaningfully change,” Gerdes said, using his own name to emphasize that was his opinion.

Home game attendance is abysmal, but attendance is down across the board. Gerdes blames big screen TVs and the comforts of home. Why schlep it to a stadium when you can watch the game for free at home with access to your own bathroom, not to mention much cheaper beer.

Gerdes said Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg told the city a full season in St. Pete was not an option.

“ ‘I will not give you 81 games,’ he said that,” Gerdes said.

He said that’s even if the team gets a shiny new stadium on the city’s downtown waterfront.

Gerdes said he’s more interested in redeveloping the massive Tropicana Field site. If asked, he said he would support another memorandum of understanding with the Rays to allow them to again negotiate with Tampa.

Gerdes was speaking with Tampa City Council Chair Luis Viera during an event sharing priorities on both sides of the bay. The Rays issue often pits St. Pete against Tampa, but Gerdes was all too happy to let Tampa have another stab, especially if that’s what keeps the team local.

“It’s so important to continue to try to have some sort of dialogue,” Viera said. “If the rays leave the region that is a real big failure on our part.”

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected]


6 comments

  • Goodbye Rays

    September 28, 2019 at 11:49 pm

    There is absolutely no ability to think regionally here. It’s so pathetic. There are enough resources in the greater Tampa Bay region to make this happen, but the provincial mentalities in this area make it impossible to think big, and as a result, the Rays are as good as gone. As long as this area continues to think like a bunch of competing mid to small sizes cities, get ready for more setbacks like this.

    • Ray Lanners

      September 29, 2019 at 2:55 pm

      Teams that maintain a solid core of players like the Lightning draw much better crowds than computer teams that change the players more than their underwear. Most casual baseball fans need a program to even know who the players are on the field. Even people who know baseball thought Tampa Bay Rays we’re going to have the worst Rays team ever in 2018, probably 60 players have changed since the prediction. Hopefully they work with this core and don’t get cheap and let the Tampa Bay viewers form a bond with the players and coaches then people will come.

      • Duncan Harris

        September 30, 2019 at 8:37 am

        Ray Lanners, the Rays are constantly rebuilding their roster because they don’t have to fans in seats. A bid source of revenue for these teams is ticket sales. When you’re last in ticket sales almost every year. You’re going to lose players when they get off their rookie deal.

        • gary

          September 30, 2019 at 2:27 pm

          So what you are saying Duncan, is Rays management have a bad business model! Totally agree!

          They should create a model more inline with what the fans want out of a team.

      • gary

        September 30, 2019 at 2:24 pm

        This the winner! I believe Ray here, espouses what most wannabe fans of the RAYS feel! We are not fans of a corporate symbol regardless what the owners think. Baseball is not Football, and neither are the fans. Baseball fans admire the p0layers, and attach themselves to them. All of the high attendance teams in the MLB have one thing in common. A history. A history filled with greatest names in baseball. They Rays never have players that we can use as a symbol to create a legacy. Our family was sad when Zobie left, but we still watched and attended games. The same with Price, Crawford, Shields and so on… but when Longo left, the following season we did not watch one game, and still haven’t. The Rays are dead to our family. Killed by the owners always putting profit over the fanbase and their needs.

  • Mark

    October 1, 2019 at 4:56 am

    Keep the Rays in St Pete and the city should work hard to make it so. The owners don’t seem to lack passion for the community, unless I’m missing it. And who wants to drive across the Howard Frankenstein to watch baseball, have a few pops then drive back with all the punks ripping across lanes (without signaling) in their slammed tuner cars? Answer: nobody with half a brain. The city council needs to actively pursue an outcome that keeps the Rays in St Pete, the owners should actively pursue generating a local fan base that includes transplanted Yankees, and I’ll be a season ticket owner along with many more Vetrans, retirees and St Pete families that have lived here their entire lives. Of course that takes effort…and by the way, Joe is available.

Comments are closed.


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