I have never lived in Detroit, so I am an outsider to the place in most every respect. My parents were both born and raised there. My extended family calls the Detroit suburbs home now (like a lot of folks they started moving out after the 1967 riots). But I was born and lived until I was eleven 55 miles north of Detroit in beautiful Flint, Michigan. As such, I don’t presume to have any standing of my own to talk about what is and what is not appropriate when it comes to talking about Detroit and its ills itself. Just a vicarious interest in the place by virtue of people with whom I share some DNA.
But outsider status notwithstanding, columns like the one George Vecsey wrote for today’s New York Times — about how the Tigers and Lions are making Detroit feel good, and ain’t it great for such a crappy city to feel good — really bug me. This one isn’t bad or egregious in any way — it’s an OK column on its own merits — but we see them written every time a Detroit team does something good. Or New Orleans or Cleveland or anyplace else that is depressed or blighted. And they kind of drive me nuts.
I’m not sure which aspect of these columns bug me more: (a) the “those poor, poor sods” sentiments which, not unlike ruin porn, necessarily revel, however unintentionally, in the misfortunes of the city; or (b) the presumption that something as superficial and fleeting as the success of a professional sports team makes a bit of difference to the people hardest hit by those misfortunes. (note: anyone with tickets to tonight’s Tigers-Yankees game probably has a job).
This isn’t a really big deal in the grand scheme — and you all know that I can get overly-sensitive about certain things and that this may be one of them — but I’m curious to hear if this kind of thing bugs people with stronger Detroit ties than mine.
LAS VEGAS — Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg appeared at the Winter Meetings a few minutes ago and said that the project which was intended to result in a new ballpark for the team in Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa has fallen apart. No new ballpark will be built and the three-year window granted to the team by the City of St. Petersburg to negotiate for a new ballpark will come to a close without any deal. The Tampa Bay Rays appear to be stuck in Tropicana Field through 2027.
Sternberg’s statement came mere hours after it was reported that Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred sent a sternly-worded letter to Hillsborough County officials, blasting the framework for the deal for the new stadium in Ybor City, saying it lacked specifics and criticized “the actual level commitment” from the public side. It’s not unreasonable to read that as the Commissioner’s dissatisfaction with how much public money the County was pledging to complete the project. Sternberg said just now that “we were not close to a workable framework.”
In his comments this morning Sternberg noted that the Rays had worked “for ten years” to get a new stadium and that they’d continue to try to work to that end, but the team’s options are extremely limited. The Rays are party to what has been described as an iron-clad lease for Tropicana Field, lasting through 2027. Until three years ago the Rays were prohibited from even talking to anyone about building a new ballpark outside of St. Petersburg. In December 2015 St. Pete granted the team a window to negotiate with Hillsborough County which Sternberg called “very generous.” It is now closing, however, and Sternberg said that there are no plans to ask St. Petersburg officials for a new one.
Which means that the Rays are likely stuck in Tropicana Field through 2027. While Sternberg talked of being creative and searching for any and all available options, he likewise said that “we need to figure out where the 2028 season will be played.”