The Tampa Bay Rays this week unveiled plans for a new $900 million baseball stadium in the Ybor City section of downtown Tampa.
That matters to Portland baseball fans because Tampa Bay is one of two Major League Baseball teams whose current stadium deals and attendance are so bad that they are considered prospects for relocation to other cities chasing MLB, such as Portland.
If the Rays were to build a new stadium, that would obviously hurt Portland's chances of getting a team. But the deal is a long way from done. Team owner Stuart Sternberg previously said the team would put $150 million towards a new ballpark and yesterday, he told the press in Tampa Bay he might increase that number but the gap between $150 million and $900 million is an indication of the scale of public funding the team may be looking for.
Sports Illustrated immediately raised questions about how the Rays might fill that gap, noting that taxpayers have repeatedly picked up the tab for billionaire owners in a series of horrible stadium deals.
"This is a battle that's played out repeatedly over the last decade, and one that cities don't win," SI noted. "Just in that span, taxpayers in Washington, D.C., New York (twice), Minneapolis, Miami and Atlanta have forked over hundreds of millions of dollars through deals made by local governments in exchange for ballparks. Money that could have been spent on improving local infrastructure or better salaries for civil servants instead went to franchises worth billions and their absurdly rich owners, all of whom cried poor when the time came to pay."
John McIssac, a spokesman for the Portland Diamond Project, claims his group is going about procuring a team in a more responsible manner.
"We've been watching the developments in Tampa with interest and curiosity," McIssac said in an email. "And the way that group is handling its stadium development is very different from Portland Diamond Project's situation. We already have a firm plan in place for financing and will share that information as appropriate."