Evan Longoria played for the Tampa Bay Rays for ten years before the Rays traded him to the San Francisco Giants in December. Longoria was very connected to Tampa when he played there, buying several houses and investing in businesses. Even though he’s no longer part of the Rays, he’s got a lot of opinions about the future of the team. The biggest? He’s not sure if the Rays should stay in Tampa.
He doesn’t think attendance will ever be strong enough
Longoria talked with Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, and he didn’t beat around the bush when it came to the team’s future, and whether it should be in Tampa or somewhere else.
“Honestly, and this is maybe not something I should say, but my gut tells me that the best decision might be to move the team,” Evan Longoria said Thursday. “I say that only because I look at the example of the Miami Marlins, and (a new stadium) didn’t really solve their attendance issues. So from purely an attendance standpoint, somewhere else might be better.”
While the location of Tropicana Field is certainly an issue (it’s across a bridge on the other side of Tampa), he doesn’t think that moving the stadium to a different Tampa location will help the Rays’ attendance woes. The Rays have ranked last or near last in total attendance since 2011, but as he pointed out, a new stadium didn’t help the Marlins. Miami saw an attendance spike when the park opened in 2012, but since 2013 the team has ranked 27th or lower in total attendance.
For Longoria, the attendance issues are the key to everything. They’re why the Rays aren’t an attractive team for free agents, and why building a new stadium might not be the best idea.
“It pains me to say that, but players want to play in a place where you have consistent support,. It’s a selfish thing to say probably as a player, but, I don’t know, does anyone really want to play in front of 10,000 a night? I don’t know. […] There are a lot of dedicated Rays fans … and obviously it would be a shame for those people to lose the team. But you just hope there is consistent fan support, and it historically hasn’t been there. I don’t know that it’s the easiest case to lobby to build a new stadium in the area. It’s not a slam dunk.”
He likes a different site for the Rays’ new stadium
The Rays desperately need a new stadium, since Tropicana Field is a quirky mess, and it’s not in a location that’s truly convenient to people who live in Tampa. The team has been working with the city to find a site, and the top choice is Ybor City, a neighborhood that’s actually in Tampa.
But Longoria disagrees. If the Rays are going to stay in Tampa and build a new stadium, he thinks there’s a better location than Ybor City.
“I think they should move across the street from Raymond James (Stadium, on Dale Mabry Highway),” he said. “They should build a stadium that looks just like Houston, or very similar to (Minute Maid Park, which has a retractable roof). You can’t play outside there (in Tampa Bay), it has to be a retractable. And obviously it should be grass. If you can do it in Houston you can do it in Florida – you can grow grass in Florida indoors.”
He makes several good points. Namely that Raymond James Stadium, which can accommodate 65,000 people, is in an easily accessible area that can handle a big influx of people. And he even gets in a dig at the Trop’s famous (or infamous) artificial turf, because as we’ve seen at Marlins Park, good grass can be grown indoors. And of course there has to be a retractable roof, since it’s Florida in the summer.
It’s the circle of life
In 1992, the Giants actually tried to move to Tampa. The team was desperate to replace Candlestick Park, but hadn’t been able to get any public financing. So owner Bob Lurie agreed to sell the team to a group that would move it to Tampa. However, the other National League didn’t approve the move, and the team stayed put, with Lurie selling it to a different group.
Longoria, who used to play for Tampa Bay, now plays for the Giants, and thinks the Rays should leave Tampa. He didn’t make any suggestions for where the Rays should move to, but San Francisco is already taken.
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