On Tuesday, the Pinellas County Commission voted to have a meeting with the management of Tampa Bay Rays in hopes of keeping the team in Pinellas County.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, the vote came after recent actions taken by Hillsborough County and Tampa to attract the Rays across the bay. Mayor Bill Foster, the Times reported, gave the county the push it needed to take action.
"Pinellas County administrator Bob LaSala said the invitation came in response to comments made by St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster in a Tampa Bay Times story about Hillsborough's overtures to the Rays. Foster characterized it as "outside interference" into a matter that should be kept between the baseball team, his city and Pinellas County. Never before, said Pinellas Commissioner Susan Latvala, had Foster acknowledged the county could have a role in persuading the Rays to stay."
Council member Steve Kornell posted on Facebook that he approves of a meeting between the Rays and Pinellas County.
"I fully support this meeting between the Pinellas County Commission and St. Pete City Council in regard to the Rays. I think there are many ideas we can put forward to help the team. Here are two of mine, what about yours?
1.) It would be great if there were some type of transportation going from spots in Tampa and dropping people at the Trop on game nights. Perhaps PSTA and HART could discuss this idea.
2.) Other team have sold seat licenses (including the Bucs if I remember correctly) to help fund a stadium. This seems like something we could kick off and would start positive momentum no matter the final location of the stadium within our region."
Earlier this year, Foster and St. Pete City Council vowed to step up its efforts to help increase attendance at the Trop this year.
Voicing its unanimous support of the Rays at a January Council meeting, council voted to become "ambassadors" for the Rays to help bring more people into the Trop.
“To me this is the logical (step),” said council member Karl Nurse. “Very clear we need to sell more tickets or we (won’t) have a baseball team.”
Attendance this year at the Trop, however, has continued to be an issue. Through Aug. 7 the Rays had the third worst attendance in Major League Baseball with 20,768 a game.
Prior to the All-Star Game festivities in Kansas City in July, MLB commissioner Bud Selig called out Rays' fans about attendance at the Trop.
According to MLB.com, Selig said with a competitive team like the Rays it is "inexcusable" for attendance to be so low at the Trop.
"To study the attendance figures every day and see that they're 29th in attendance, it's inexcusable," Selig said. "Nobody can defend that. This is a very competitive baseball team. The average Major League attendance is between 31,000 and 32,000. And if my memory is serving me well, Tampa Bay's attendance is around 19-something. It's disappointing."
The Rays’ lease at the Trop does not run out until 2027.