“Baseball’s Crisis–Cloud Cover & Sunshine State”
The problems have existed for a long time. They don’t seem to be going away.
Baseball in South Florida is not working, despite a new stadium, winning seasons, World Series appearances, and ownership changes.
I would have never imagined decades upon decades of problems would make Miami a sinkhole of major league support.
I would have never thought a big area like Tampa Bay would continue to watch games on TV in record setting numbers, but never show up at Tropicana Field to see a pennant contender.
Baseball is proposing that the Rays open talks with a Montreal consortium to play a split schedule, to solve attendance problems, seek the construction of new open air stadiums, and to revisit a very different market, they exited in 2004, Montreal Quebec.
Baseball has already signed off on the sale of the struggling Marlins from much hated owner Jeffrey Loria, to a group led by Yankees legend Derek Jeter. He has embarked on a massive rebuilding campaign, signing international players, and building thru the draft.
The two markets are very different. It is odd the Latin American community that makes up the Miami population base, no longer cares about baseball. Those generations of families, who came from Cuba, have found other things to do with their lives. The Marlins fire sales of the World Series team, damaged the following. It has not recovered, the proof in the pudding being average attendance this year around 9440-fans per game.
In Tampa-St Petersburg, retirement communities for sure, they have not responded to even the winning teams the Rays have put on the field., in what seems a hopeless situation.. Despite winning seasons, the Rays have the second worst attendance in baseball, just over 14,000 a game.
Miami built a new stadium, but put it on the sight of the old Orange Bowl, in a ghetto like area of blight. Fans don’t want to go there, and the team keeps losing and losing.
The Rays play in the old Sundome, very hard to get to in rush-hour traffic, A struggle to cross the bridges in rush-hour, fans stay away, despite the quality of the product on the field.
The commissioner’s office seems to think this is a problem local ownership and government have to solve, but it’s baseball’s problem really, when two franchises do’t produce the revenue virtually all the other teams create.. Building stadiums, and rebuilding organizations are both than just what Miami and Tampa get done.
The Montreal idea is novel, though some think absurd. There is no stadium in Montreal aside from the aging cement block structure that is the Olympic Stadium, former home of the Expos. That franchise left with ownership-financial problems.
The Canadian dollar has bounced back. Montreal has become a prosperous community again. It has become a dynamic French-Anglophone community, no longer split apart by Quebec sepeartisits.
Stephen Bronfman, son of the former Expos owner, has surfaced with a six member group that has the rights to develop the land for a new open aired stadium. Rays owner Stuart Sternberg will meet with Bronfman to develop a game plan to play a split schedule between the Quebec city and the Suncoast.
There are other cities yearning for an opportunity for a franchise. Las Vegas, which gets things built (hockey arenas-NFL stadiums)…..fast growing Charlotte….and Portland. But in each case, there is no ready made stadium available.
Where does this go from here. It will be a slow-go probe of the Montreal-Tampa Bay idea.
All teams in baseball now make money, but Miami-Tampa Bay are at the bottom in revenue producing, for lots of different reasons.
But patience has also led to better situations, whether it was the sad-sack Padres, the forever troubled Minnesota Twins, the once proud Giants and more. Pittsburgh came back. Baltimore will come back, Kansas City hopes to come back. But those cities have drawn in the past. Miami and Tampa have never..
No easy answers. No instant solutions. And likely, still lots of empty suits in Miami and Tampa Bay.
Would have never thought we’d see that in the Sunshine state.