Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Kriseman Says He's Focused on Rays' Future in St. Petersburg, Not Tampa

Rick Kriseman is starting to sound a lot like the Mayor of St. Petersburg. That is, he no longer sounds like the candidate looking to replace incumbant Bill Foster. Actually, now that he's taken office, he sounds a lot like Foster.

In an exclusive interview with WTSP/10 News, Kriseman said he's "not necessarily convinced" the Rays want to move to Tampa and he's looking forward to talking with team leaders "about what we can do collaboratively to increase attendance."
FLASHBACK NOV 2013: Kriseman says team done with St. Pete
FLASHBACK OCT 2013: Foster wants to increase Trop attendance
FLASHBACK FEB 2013: Kriseman wants a "regional dialogue"

"What can we do together to try and increase attendance?," Kriseman asked rhetorically.  "That has to be our first conversation before we even start talking about any moves here or there.  Because I am convinced we can make changes and make (the Rays) more successful here and I'd love to see them stay here in St Petersburg."

As predicted on this blog back in November, Kriseman is seemingly stuck between a rock and a hard place: he can appease the Rays and local editorial boards; or he can protect the city's bottom line and stand his ground on a contract that has 14 years remaining.

Kriseman reiterated his campaign promise to first look out for the city's interests in negotiations, but spoke little of how he might solve the four-year-long stalemate over the team's current contract, which runs through 2027.

Instead, Kriseman focused on four factors he said would help improve attendance over the next few years, including transit options, new businesses coming to St. Petersburg, convincing Tampa residents to cross the Howard-Frankland Bridge, and allowing teenage Rays fans to mature into young professionals who can buy more tickets.
FLASHBACK FEB 2013: Mayor Foster's four points on the Stadium Saga

Kriseman based much of his Tropicana Field hope on the passing of Greenlight Pinellas, which could bring improved bus and rail options to St. Pete and Pinellas County over the course of the next decade.  As well as a Hillsborough County connection, which could reduce many of the commuting stresses fans sometimes complain about.
FLASHBACK SEPT 2013: Kriseman campaigns on transit platform

The mayor also said he is looking to recruit new 500- or 1,000-employee companies to St. Pete's downtown, "so when 5 p.m. comes, people can leave business and go straight over to the stadium."

Convincing Hillsborough County residents to cross the bay may be a tougher task.

"We need to make the Howard-Frankland Bridge a two way-bridge," Kriseman said.  "(Pinellas residents) go over to Hillsborough County to attend Buccaneers games (and) Lightning games. We're not seeing the same level of support coming this way over, so I'd like to see us work with Hillsborough County and Tampa to get greater participation from its residents."
FLASHBACK MAY 2009: Tampa fans won't cross the bridge
FLASHBACK JAN 2013: Mayors lament fans who won't cross the bridge

Kriseman's final factor for improving attendance at The Trop is simply giving young fans time to grow up.

"You look at the age of the franchise, we are just getting to the point where in the next three-to-five years, (a) child who has grown up with the Rays (will be) old enough to buy their own season tickets.  We're not there yet, but we're only two-to-three years away from it."

Kriseman said he didn't know when he'd get to discuss the Rays' stadium campaign with team executives, but team owner Stu Sternberg said Tuesday morning he'd be in Florida through Thursday and indicated he may have some free time for stadium discussions.  He also talked about potentially keeping David Price through 2015 as well as the Rays' payroll bump from $62 million last year {link to Times' site}.

1 comment:

  1. Here's the thing, the powers that be within MLB don't care about attendance. They want new stadiums. If the trop were to suddenly get filled with 33k for every game, the MLB/Rays would actually still want a new stadium. The increase in attendance will not thwart a push for a new stadium..