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John Romano: Good grief, are we now having a petty argument over the St. Pete Rays?

John Romano, Tampa Bay Times on

Published in Baseball

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The argument about where to build a new baseball stadium was long, often feisty, but clearly necessary.

The negotiations about cost, revenues, infrastructure, real estate, amenities, history, housing and all the other details that creep up in a project of this size were extensive and, presumably, contentious but also critical to reaching a satisfactory conclusion.

And the new debate about changing the team’s name to the St. Petersburg Rays?

Well, that’s just silly and superfluous. Also, counterproductive and parochial.

Former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker has been pounding this drum lately and, based on a recent Tampa Bay Times story by Colleen Wright, has gotten the attention of a handful of City Council members who ultimately need to sign off on the stadium deal and redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site.

The thinking is that St. Pete is making a sizable financial investment in the stadium and, therefore, should reap the benefits of having the city’s name front and center. I get it. The idea has a certain, visceral satisfaction to it. Especially for a community that spent years dealing with the civic equivalent of an inferiority complex.

 

But, ultimately, this quarrel feels small-minded and pointless.

The Rays have no interest, or intention, of agreeing to this condition and their position is understandable. They have struggled to attract fans from around the region — partially due to their location — and it’s not going to help their cause to double down on the idea that this is primarily St. Pete’s team.

More importantly, it’s in the city’s interest for the team to succeed. Not just from a financial standpoint, but also a reputation one. As far as the rest of the baseball-watching world is concerned, the reason the Rays have struggled is because they have been stuck in a sleepy bedroom community.

And anything that reinforces that flawed narrative is not going to help. Not at the box office, and not with the city’s image.

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