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Analysis

What A New Rays Stadium Means For Fans And Community

photo: Steve Carney/St. Pete Nine

We are now just five years away from Tropicana Field being no more and the Tampa Bay Rays starting their residency in a brand new fixed-roof stadium on the site in St. Petersburg, and with that new stadium will come a few changes, some good, others more challenging for the fanbase, and it’s time to point out some of the more obvious ones.

More Signature Events Coming To The Venue

Yes, WWE is using the Trop for the Royal Rumble coming up in January, but the biggest mid-season event in Major League Baseball has never occured in St. Pete: the All-Star Game.  Tampa Bay is the only team that has never hosted the game’s midsummer classic, and its widely believed because the league office doesn’t consider the current venue as being new enough for the game, having been built in the late 1980s to woo teams like the Chicago White Sox and San Francisco Giants.  But with a new ballpark that will reportedly cost $1.2 billion, the game can no longer use the stadium as an excuse to overlook the region.  It may still be a couple of years down the road, but I would expect that Tampa Bay will host the All-Star Game in either the first or second year of the venue’s life.

I would also expect the league to look at the new venue as an additional site to hold games for upcoming World Baseball Classic tournaments, and that the Tampa Bay Sports Commission would push hard to be put int he rotation to hold the finals at the new ballpark.  And yes, I think WWE would be smart to use the new stadium for its major premium live events (formerly known as pay-per-views) that they would want a significant attendance bump over a venue like Amalie Arena but don’t want to have to up production costs to a WrestleMania level, so expect more Royal Rumbles, SummerSlams, and Survivor Series’ in St. Pete.

Rays Payroll Should Start A Significant Move Upwards

A new ballpark means more revenue streams inside the stadium, and I would expect that the ownership re-invest a significant portion of that money to bolster payroll, allowing the baseball operations department, led by president Erik Neander and general manager Peter Bendix, to retain more of the players they have spent a significant amount of time and capital on drafting and developing.  That of course, would allow the fanbase to be able to attach themselves to a player or group of players in a way that they have not been able to in the first 30 years of the team’s existence.

A New Ballpark Means New (And Creative) Pricing Schemes For Tickets

There are lots of concerns that with a new ballpark, you can say goodbye to the thought of discounted ticket pricing.  And while I do think that there will be a price hike for the most expensive seats in the new stadium (especially for whatever club seats they build in the new park), I also believe that the team wants there to be an opportunity for a family to attend games at the new venue.  I think there will still be plenty of seats that will be affordable to the public, and promotions like the Ballpark Pass will also make the move from the old park to the new one.  If you’re a Rays season member, you’ll probably learn more about this as we get closer to the stadium being built, and will probably find out additional details ahead of the release to the general public.

Could The New Venue Be A Hub For Wagering?

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of a new ballpark is what could be done with the venue when the team is on the road, and more importantly, during baseball’s off-season.  A new venue invites the opportunity at new partnerships, and perhaps the most intriguing possibility would be with the Seminole Tribe for the purpose of sports betting.  Now that the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has denied an “en banc” hearing by pari-mutuel owners in the state, it has paved the way for sports gambling to return to the Sunshine State under the compact signed by governor Ron Desantis and the tribe in 2021.  Could the Rays and the Seminole Tribe look at the new ballpark as the hub of their wagering operations in Pinellas County?  Could we see perhaps a brick-and-mortar sportsbook in the venue that would be open yearr-ound for sports fans to be able to wager in and watch their favorite sporting events?  The possibility is there, and a partnership like that could help the Rays bring down their costs of construction and operation.

Written By

Steve Carney is the founder and publisher of St. Pete Nine. One of the people most associated with baseball coverage in Tampa Bay, he spent 13 seasons covering the Rays for flagship radio station WDAE, first as producer of Rays Radio broadcasts, then as beat reporter beginning in 2011. He likes new analytics and aged bourbon, and is the owner of one of the ugliest knuckleballs ever witnessed by baseball scouts.

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