The Tampa Bay Rays desperately need a new stadium. Yet several forces beyond their control, including the desires of local voters, seem to be conspiring to keep them in the maligned Tropicana Field.
The Rays have consistently put one of the most exciting and dynamic products on the field. They have young players who over achieve and a seemingly endless supply of terrific pitchers coming through their fertile farm system.
They have won 90 games in four of the last five seasons, including a startling trip to the 2008 World Series and a shocking sprint to a wild-card finish in 2011, ending on Evan Longoria's walk-off homer.
But despite production that would make them the toast of virtually every market in baseball, the Rays finished dead last in all of baseball for attendance, according to ESPN. They have ranked near the bottom in American League attendance, according to Baseball-Reference.com, for each of their 90-win seasons.
The main culprit for the poor attendance is Tropicana Field, consistently regarded as one of the worst ballparks in America by sites such as ESPN.com. The poor location, the awkward ballpark experience and outdated permanent roof seems to be off-putting to fans.
Plans were made to build a new ballpark at Al Lang Field in Tampa. But as Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com reported, that plan fell apart because the people of Tampa did not support it.
Where would people of the Sun Coast want to see a new ballpark? According to the Tampa Bay Times, a poll of residents claim they want the Rays to stay exactly where they are.
As reported by Tampa Bay Times reporter Stephen Nohlgren, residents are concerned with tax money going to places other than schools. And congestion in Tampa is another problem.
And, as Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com wrote, the Rays have been victim of guilt by association after the negativity around the new stadium in Miami. Marlins Park opened to less than robust crowds, and a salary dump by the ownership has left a bad taste in the mouth of Floridians.
The Rays have shown no indication of acting like the Marlins, but another new stadium might be too much for Florida taxpayers to swallow.
So the Rays look like they are stuck in Tropicana Field. So far, the product on the field has been worthwhile. If only they could get more people to see it.
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