TAMPA, FLA. - Everybody has an opinion on the Tampa Bay Rays stadium saga, and now ex-skipper Joe Maddon is chiming in.
Maddon was always coy during his nine-year tenure in Tampa Bay when asked about the Rays need for a new ballpark. He didn't hold back on Tuesday, his first return to Tropicana Field since departing for the Chicago Cubs in 2014.
"You need a better facility," Maddon said, without being pressed on the issue. "You need a facility that's readily available to the general population when they get off of work. They need a place that's more baseball-oriented. You don't need an erector set. You don't need stuff hanging from the ceiling.
"Listen, it was a great place and it's a great place to start, but for this organization to really get to where they want to on an annual basis, you need a better building in a better spot."
Candid, to say the least, and something you just didn't hear Maddon say while managing the Rays.
"Quite frankly, when I worked here, I couldn't say that," Maddon said, "because people did not want to hear that. People would get upset with me because I said that, but it's just true. For those to argue against that, it's just a bad argument."
The Rays have been searching for years for a new stadium site, with an ongoing battle between Pinellas and Hillsborough County for the right to have the Rays in their backyard.
Maddon's opinion? Put it in Tampa, specifically downtown.
"Its got to be on the other side of the pond, man," he said. "It just has to be. I think downtown Tampa. Listen, I live over there...I think if it goes on that side you have a much better chance of the late-day, employment group, people that work until 5 or 6:00, showing up."
Major League Baseball isn't pushing the Rays out of Tropicana Field just yet. They're being patient - for now - as the Rays locate an ideal spot. The team will give an update on the search efforts after the season.
Maddon believes an aesthetically pleasing ballpark, and a move across the bay, is critical.
"That was the one thing I always thought held it back when I was here," Maddon said. "You just need to get on that side, I think, to really make this thing work or even give it a chance to make it work."
© 2017 WTSP-TV