Evan Longoria played the first ten years of his MLB career for the Tampa Bay Rays, was the face of their franchise for a decade, and is arguably the best player in club history. As the Rays struggle to figure out a long-term solution to their current stadium woes, Longoria warns that there might not be a point in building a new stadium in Tampa for fans who don’t seem to exist.
“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, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “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.”
Longoria was traded to the Giants this past offseason, as the Rays looked to cut expenses. The team has played their entire existence (since entering the league in 1998) at Tropicana Field, a domed stadium that is generally considered to be one of the worst in baseball. The team itself is rarely competitive, save for a few sporadic seasons of playoff baseball. They have finished dead last in attendance in each of the last six years, and second last in 2011. The team is pushing for the local government to cough up millions towards building a new stadium, but Longoria clearly doesn’t think it will fix anything.
“It pains me to say that, but players want to play in a place where you have consistent support,” Longoria said. “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. I’m glad I won’t have to hear the backlash again this time (for making comments about attendance, as when he played there).
“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.”
Longoria went on to say that if they do manage to secure funding for a new ballpark in Tampa, it should be near Raymond James Stadium, where the NFL team Tampa Bay Buccaneers currently play.
“That would be the best thing, I think, just to make it in an easily accessible place where you know 30,000-40,000 people can get in and out easily because they do it for 80,000 at Raymond James already.”
The NFL stadium is closer to heart of Tampa, while Tropicana is actually in St. Petersburg, a 30-minute drive away (assuming traffic isn’t an issue). In short, it takes more effort to get out to a Rays game.
“I think it has to move to Tampa,” Longoria said. “If you’re staying in the area, it has to move somewhere over there.”
Meanwhile, baseball fans in places like Montreal or Portland are anxiously hoping the team might end up moving to their city in the near future.