Poll says Rays should be able to look to Tampa

New poll shows residents of St. Pete are willing to allow Rays to find a home outside the city in Tampa.
New poll shows residents of St. Pete are willing to allow Rays to find a home outside the city in Tampa.

A poll shows that the people of St. Petersburg feel that the Tampa Bay Rays should be allowed to explore option’s outside of the city.  According to a report on Bay News 9 the majority of public are no longer in favor of   holding the Rays to their contract to play at Tropicana Field through 2027 without at least being able to consider other options in the Tampa Bay area.

The public feels that such a rigid stance could come at a very severe price.

The Rays could well give up on the region and move to some far-flung destination. Or even be absorbed by Major League Baseball in an act of “contraction.”

Here is more from the Bay News 9 report: 

Tampa is a viable alternative because of its more central location and younger population, and new data from an Bay News 9Tampa Bay Times and WUSF Public Media poll establishes that nearly half of the city’s residents – a solid majority of those who ventured an opinion – favor allowing the team to explore options in the city.

Thirty-eight percent of the poll respondents said the Rays should be able to look across the bay if they pay the city a fee for amending their lease, and another 10 percent said they should be permitted to look even without any conditions attached.

That brings the total percentage of residents who say the club should be allowed to flirt with Tampa to 48 percent, according to the poll.

That’s far from a consensus, of course. Another 39 percent of city residents who say the Rays shouldn’t be allowed to flirt with Tampa under any circumstances. And 12 percent they don’t know or weren’t sure about the right answer.

Change in position

Foster, who for years steadfastly held the Rays couldn’t even look sideways at Hillsborough County, acknowledged in August that ongoing poor attendance in the face of the club’s excellent performance on the field is a legitimate concern. He admitted that letting the Rays look elsewhere might be a way to keep them close.

No agreement permitting the Rays to talk to Tampa has come about, though, and Foster reported to the City Council last month that negotiations were going nowhere and that Major League Baseball does not “seem interested in a cooperative effort to keep the Rays in the Tampa Bay region for the long term.”

Rick Kriseman, Foster’s challenger in the Nov. 5 mayoral election, has repeatedly pointed to Foster’s shift in philosophy as indecisiveness and playing politics.

“For the first 3 1/2 years of his administration, it was, ‘we have a contract. It’s good through 2027, and we are not going to allow them to look elsewhere,’ ” Kriseman noted during a recent debate produced by Bay News 9 and theTampa Bay Times. “The election cycle starts, and there are discussions, so that position has changed.”

Both candidates say their primary objective is to protect the interest of city taxpayers who invested hundreds of millions of dollars to build Tropicana Field and attract a MLB expansion team to the city. Foster favors “negotiating in good faith,” while Kriseman said he would not amend the agreement “unless we get something in return.”

And that, the poll data shows, is what many city residents want and are the poll numbers.

  18-54 55+ White Black/African-
Only if there is an advance agreement on financial compensation 36% 40% 41% 29%
Without any conditions 11% 10% 12% 6%
Not at all 40% 37% 34% 52%
Don’t know or not sure 12% 13% 12% 12%
Refused 1% ** 1% 1%