The Tampa Bay Rays have got to get out of town.
Whether it is because of their horrifically out-of-date and wholly-inadequate home stadium, Tropicana Field, or their location in a largely water-locked, gridlock paralyzed sleepy Florida town, the Tampa Bay Rays see far too many empty seats come game time, which is sad because this is an excellent team.
But it is not like there is a shortage of potentially major league cities out there; several American cities would be happy to have and support a Major League Baseball franchise.
Here we look at seven of them.
One of the nation's fastest growing cities, Charlotte is the second largest financial hub in the country after New York. Charlotte is also home to the Charlotte Bobcats of the NBA, the Carolina Panthers of the NFL, and Charlotte is right down the road from Raleigh, North Carolina, which is the home of the Carolina Hurricane.
To say nothing of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Is North Carolina ready to be a four-sport state?
Las Vegas is currently home to the Triple-A Las Vegas 51’s, and the city is one of the fastest growing in America.
Professional sports have been slow to warm to Las Vegas because of its reputation as a den of debauchery. However, one must wonder whether this concern is a bit naïve; as we have seen, professional athletes have no problem finding debauchery.
Plus, how awesome would it be to have a team in Las Vegas. Imagine, every time a visiting player goes through a little mini-slump, commentators will say things like “Miguel Cabrera is hoping that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”
Currently home to the Single-A Brooklyn Cyclones in the Mets organization.
While this idea may seem odd, why does it? Since losing the Dodgers to Los Angeles in the 1950’s, it is not like the people of Brooklyn have become less enthusiastic about baseball. And Brooklyn, as an iconic baseball locale, would generate so much fascination.
As to the notion that having three teams in New York City would be too many, think of it like this: the Kansas City, Missouri metropolitan area has a population of 2.1 million people. Seattle has a metro population of 3.3 million people.
Brooklyn alone, without accounting for the other boroughs, Long Island or northern New Jersey, has a population of 2.6 million. And, unlike most “metropolitan areas,” the entire population of Brooklyn lives within 71 square miles of each other.
Frankly, New York City could probably use two or three more teams.
Or would giving the New York Yankees a little competition bother people?
In the 1960’s and 1970’s, Baltimore had a terrific team featuring the likes of Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson and Jim Palmer. The Orioles won a couple of World Series, and were a dominant power in the American League.
But that all ended in the late 1980’s when . . . oh wait, that team is still there, aren’t they.
How easily we forget.
San Antonio is one of the country’s fastest growing cities and has already established itself as a sports city with the emergence and dominance of the San Antonio Spurs of the last 15 years. The city is the seventh largest in the United States, and the only city in the top 10 in the United States that is not within 50 miles of a Major League Baseball team.
The city is currently home to the Double-A San Antonio Missions.
The so-called “Inland Empire” is one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the United States. It’s current population is 4.2 million people, which represents 29 percent growth over the last 10 years.
Though Riverside is only 60 miles from Los Angeles, it is an entirely separate metropolitan area and is not included in Los Angeles’s population for census purposes.
One can only wonder whether “Tampa Bay” would have been granted a Major League franchise had Major League Baseball known how the first 13 years of the franchise’s history was going to play out.
The team was brought to the Tampa area, in fact, upon the premise that St. Petersburg had a stadium for the team. That stadium, the Florida Sun Coast Dome (now known as Tropicana Field) was built in 1990, eight years before the team arrived, and represented yesterday’s news in terms of amenities, style, class and substance.
By 1998, with the Dome Stadium era in professional baseball officially over, and every team in baseball either playing in or building a new stadium, St. Petersburg already had a strike against it.
Strike two for the city of St. Petersburg was the city of St. Petersburg. The city is part of the larger Tampa metropolitan area, so one might think the area as a whole could support baseball. However, the actual city of St. Petersburg is not large—less than 300,000 people—and is surrounded on three and a half sides by water. It is difficult to access and it is difficult to negotiate.
So the Tampa Bay Rays are currently a good team playing in a bad stadium in a remote part of town/area. At the end of the day, the people of Tampa and of Florida need to do the right thing:
Build a nice, modern new stadium in Tampa proper so that everyone can get to the ballpark and have a good time actually being at the ballpark.