Tampa Bay Rays Tickets 2017
The name “Tampa Bay” is often used to describe a geographic metropolitan area which encompasses the cities around the body of water known as Tampa Bay, including Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and Bradenton. Unlike in the case of Green Bay, Wisconsin, there is no municipality known as “Tampa Bay”. The “Tampa Bay” in the names of local professional sports franchises (Rays, Rowdies, Buccaneers, Lightning, etc.) denotes that they represent the entire region, not just Tampa or St. Petersburg.
The Rays have played at Tropicana Field since their inception in 1998. The facility, which was originally called the “Florida Suncoast Dome”, was built in the late 1980s to attract an MLB team through either relocation or expansion. After St. Petersburg was awarded an expansion franchise in 1995, the dome underwent extensive renovations and naming rights were sold to Tropicana Products, which was based in nearby Bradenton, Florida.
Tropicana Field underwent further renovations in 2006 and 2007 after Stu Sternberg gained controlling ownership of the team. Most of the changes sought to improve fans’ game-day experience. For the players, the biggest change was the installation of a new Field Turf surface in 2007, which was replaced in turn with a new version of AstroTurf for the 2011 season.
Tampa Bay’s primary rivals are the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. The Red Sox/Rays rivalry dates back to the 2000 season, when Devil Ray Gerald Williams took exception to being hit by a pitch thrown by Boston pitcher Pedro Martínez and charged the mound, resulting in a game full of retaliations and ejections on both sides. There have been several other incidents between the teams during the ensuing years, including one in 2005 which resulted in two bench-clearing fights during the game and a war of words between then-Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella and then-Boston pitcher Curt Schilling through the media in the following days. The rivalry reached its highest level to date during the 2008 season, which included a brawl during a June meeting in Fenway Park and a 7-game American League Championship Series between the teams that ended in the Rays’ first ever pennant win.
As a fellow member of the AL East Division, the Yankees and Rays play many times each season. There has always been some feeling of a rivalry between the teams because the Yankees make Tampa their spring training home and fan loyalty in the Tampa Bay area has historically been divided, especially among transplants from the northeastern US. The rivalry became more heated in spring training of 2008, when a home plate collision between Rays outfielder Elliot Johnson and Yankee catcher Francisco Cervelli was followed the next day by spikes-high slide by Yankees outfielder Shelley Duncan into Rays’ second baseman Akinori Iwamura, prompting Rays outfielder Jonny Gomes to charge in from his position in right field and knock Duncan to the ground.
New Stadium Plans
The Rays’ current ownership has long hinted that Tropicana Field does not generate enough revenue and that it is too far from the Tampa Bay Area’s population center. In 2007, the team announced a plan to build a covered ballpark at the current site of Al Lang Field on the St. Petersburg waterfront, and a local referendum was scheduled to decide on public financing. However, in the face of vocal opposition, the Rays withdrew the proposal in 2009 and stated they had abandoned all plans for a ballpark in downtown St. Petersburg waterfront, preferring a location nearer the center of Pinellas County or across the bay in Tampa.
Since 2009, local officials, media, and business leaders have explored possibilities for a new stadium for the Rays somewhere in the Tampa Bay area. However, St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster has repeatedly insisted that the Rays honor their lease agreement with the city, which runs through 2027 and prohibits the team from entering into talks with other communities, resulting in a protracted stalemate.
In October 2014, it was reported that Sternberg, frustrated with efforts to build a new stadium in the Tampa Bay area, had discussions with Wall Street associates about moving the Rays to Montreal, which has been without a MLB franchise since the Montreal Expos moved to Washington, D.C. in 2005 to become the Washington Nationals. On December 9, 2014, reports surfaced that owner Stuart Sternberg will sell the team if a new stadium is not built.
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