Following the news that MLB had ended the Rays pursuit of splitting their home games between the US and Canada, the Tampa Bay Times launched an online survey for its readers and got a strong response.
In total, 1,200 readers replied to the Times survey, with 70% of the respondents caring “a lot” about the team. The responses detailed hopes and dreams for a new stadium, with questions ranging from the level of public funding that should be dedicated to the organization’s efforts to build a new multi-use facility, to the style and location.
But central to the survey was an important question: Will the Rays stay in Tampa Bay?
Now I’ve seen some of the online reactions to the results of this survey lobbing hate or criticism toward the Times for including this query, but this is a reasonable question!
Once the Rays finally secured permission to search for a new stadium in Hillsborough County, the team performed a formal search and identified the west side of Ybor City as its preferred destination. But once the local political and business powers that be did not come together to build that stadium for the Rays, the team’s presidents declared the city of Tampa and the region of Tampa Bay unable to support Major League Baseball - at least not for a full season.
Fast forward a few more years, and now the Rays have been told they cannot have two markets, and by default must choose in what city their next stadium will be built. Will the Rays choose a city in the Tampa Bay region?
According to the survey results, as reported by Charlie Frago, probably not:
a strong majority [...] don’t think the Rays have done enough to make a new Tampa Bay stadium happen. Nearly three in five think the chances are “good” to “very good” the team will leave for another city.
On a personal note — in our reaction podcast to the death of the Sister City plan, I placed the odds of the Rays staying in Tampa Bay at 30%. Times readers appear slightly more optimistic, but not by much.
The Rays, true to form, declined to comment on the survey results. You can check out the full write up of the survey here — Times readers: We want the Rays to stay, but don’t think they will