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An Open Letter To St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster

I originally published this story one year ago today. Recent national articles have made the content matter relevant again. Everything below still holds true.

Dear Mayor Foster,

I write this as not only a Rays fan, but as a citizen of St. Petersburg for 25 years. I love this city and think you and your predecessors have done an excellent job running it over the years. I much prefer St. Petersburg and its charm and small town feel to the Metropolitan aura of Tampa. Part of what has given the city that charm is the reason I write this letter today: Baseball. We're both aware of the rich baseball history that St. Petersburg possesses. In fact, that is one of the main reasons I fell in love with the game in the first place. As a child, my father would take me down to Al Lang Field to watch the Cardinals in Spring Training. He’d tell me of all the teams that had trained here in the past; the Yankees, the Mets, the Orioles, etc. I was hooked. Then, in 1998, I finally had a team of my own to root for as the Devil Rays stepped onto the turf at Tropicana Field for the first time. I was 12 years-old at that time and thought the Rays would be playing in the Trop forever. But, things change. It’s that change that I hope you can embrace in the coming months.

As much as I hate to admit it, I agree with Stuart Sternburg’s assertion that a new stadium is needed and that the downtown St. Petersburg area is no longer a viable option. The members of Sternburg’s ownership group aren’t stupid. If they find that keeping the Rays in the Trop is not in good business then they’re going to move on to something that is. It’s as simple as that. You saying that you "fully expect the Rays to honor their contract and remain playing in downtown St. Petersburg until 2027" is a pipe dream. Don’t try to kid yourself or the community. I respect the fact that you’re trying to look out for the best interests of the city. Having the Rays in St. Petersburg obviously brings in more revenue than not having them would. I also respect the fact that you have people that you answer to who would not be happy if the Rays moved to Tampa. I get that. But is getting into an ugly legal battle that will surely alienate the best owner the Tampa Bay area has ever seen really worth it? Maybe this is the selfish fan in me, I know I certainly don’t have as much riding on this as you, but I’d rather the Rays play in North Tampa than risk losing them and/or this ownership regime, all together.

So, I ask you, Bill Foster, to please keep an open mind. Consider other possibilities. Be a voice in the room, instead of trying to be the voice in the room. The whole Tampa Bay area would benefit.


Erik Hahmann