Rays need new image on the field

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays have changed their name to the Rays. They have introduced new uniforms and are now trying to build a stadium.

This is like pouring old wine into a new bottle and expecting it to taste better.

The Rays want a new 35,000-seat stadium built where Al Lang Field, their spring training stadium, is located. The estimated cost for this project is $450 million. So far, the team says it will only pay for $150 million, while hoping to make a profit selling the 17-year-old Tropicana Stadium. However, they don’t own that land.

The city of St. Petersburg built Tropicana Field in 1990 with $138 million in taxpayer money to encourage Major League Baseball to award them with a team. The stadium is now $94.3 million in debt. The city, county and state taxpayers pay for this.

According to the Tampa Tribune, the debt won’t be paid off until 2025. The Rays have a lease with Tropicana that doesn’t expire until 2027. While the Rays do control the stadium and pay operating costs, the city pays $2.5 million a year for the building.

If the stadium were to be sold, the money should go to the county.

Another problem with the proposed stadium is that there is no place for on-site parking. Fans would have to park in other garages around the city and walk or commute to the stadium. This would make it harder for fans to get to the game, and that is last thing this team wants. The new location would also mean the city would have to deal with extra traffic in the heart of the downtown district.

The Rays also want their new home to be an open-air stadium. What they seem to have forgotten is that the majority of the baseball season takes place during the summer. Not many people will want to spend three hours in 90-degree or higher weather. I find Raymond James Stadium to be incredibly hot during the fall. At least Tropicana Field has air-conditioning and shade.

Another predicament involving the weather is the rain. According to About.com, there is a 50 percent chance that it will rain each day in Florida during the summer. The weather wouldn’t be such a problem if the team had more die-hard fans, but they don’t, and they won’t get any just by buying a new stadium.

The team just doesn’t deserve a new stadium. The Rays’ total attendance in 2007 was 1,389,031 people, while the league average was 2,527,968 according to the Baseball Almanac. Their average attendance per game was 17,148 people. That doesn’t even fill half of the seats of the proposed new stadium.

The money the Rays plan to spend on a new stadium should go to training and player personnel. In their last season they finished last in the American League East for the ninth time in their 10 years of existence.

The Rays don’t need fancy new uniforms or a less malevolent name. They also don’t need a new stadium. For the Rays to be a winning team, they need to win games.

Candace Kaw is a junior majoring in history and mass communications