A general view of the lack of fans in the stadium as Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist is up to bat during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on September 17, 2013. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
St. Petersburg, FL -- Just two months after outgoing Mayor Bill Foster sent a memo to city council saying he didn't believe Major League Baseball was interested in "a cooperative effort to keep the Rays in the Tampa Bay region for the long term," he is again questioning MLB's commitment to the Bay area.
Foster told the Tampa Bay Times this week he still doesn't think MLB sees the Tampa Bay market as one that's sustainable.
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Yet Foster's views are not shared by everyone working at City Hall.
"I still believe the best site is right here, next to the existing Trop," Councilman Charlie Gerdes told 10 News on Friday.
"I've always said that I think St. Pete is the best place for the team to be and we ought to not be afraid of holding ourselves up against Tampa or anybody else."
Councilman Karl Nurse also expressed optimism that ultimately the Tampa Bay Rays, who want a new stadium, could find a new home in the area.
"I think (MLB and the Rays would) like to make it work for a couple reasons; one it's one of the larger television markets (and) it's an area where the population is growing. SO it certainly makes sense in their long term to stay here," Nurse said.
The Rays averaged a league worst 18,645 fans per home game this past season and the team's attendance has continually been a point of frustration with MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. But when it comes to getting the Rays a new stadium, Gerdes believes the closer the city gets to having the Tropicana Field's bonds paid off in 2016, the more likely a deal can be worked out.
"The Rays' freedom increases every year and our economic benefits decrease every year... so really the near term is the time to do this," Gerdes said.
Mayor-elect Rick Kriseman declined to respond to Foster's comments on Friday. But Kriseman has said in the past that he wants to see the Rays stay in St. Petersburg.