The Tampa Bay Rays' attendance woes have been well documented in the media in recent weeks, but finally the Tampa-St. Pete area gets some good news. The common assumption has been that Tampa's budget is too tight for them to contribute funding towards a new stadium for the Rays, but the St. Petersburg Times is reporting that Tampa is able to potentially contribute $100 million for a new stadium for the Rays.
The report goes on to suggest that there could also be other potential revenue streams available for the Rays in the near future:
The city's debt on the Tampa Convention Center is scheduled to be paid off in 2015. Then the city expects to have about $12.5 million a year available for downtown improvements, and that money could be used to repay stadium-related bonds. But here's a big caveat: Tampa hasn't said it would put the money toward a stadium, only that it could.
While $100 million isn't enough to fund a new stadium all by itself -- they typically run around $500 million -- Rays owner Stuart Sternberg was willing to contribute money to the sail stadium proposal back when that was released, and my assumption is he'd still be willing to foot some of the bill if it means the Rays can improve their location. So this news might seem like a drop in the bucket, but it at least shows that Tampa is willing to work with the Rays to fund a new stadium.
The only trick is, will St. Pete mayor Bill Foster continue to dig into his position like a mule in the mud? Or will he finally acquiesce and allow the Rays to look at other sites for a new stadium outside St. Petersburg? Because if the Rays can't get out of their current lease with St. Pete, Tampa could have all the funding in the world but the Rays wouldn't be able to move there.
For fan reactions on this news, check out our Rays blog DRaysBay.