Evan Longoria isn’t optimistic about the future of baseball in Tampa Bay, suggesting the Rays might be better off relocating.
Longoria, the longest-tenured player in Rays history, was traded to the San Francisco Giants this past off-season.
“Honestly, and this is maybe not something I should say, but my gut tells me that the best decision might be to move the team,” Longoria told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday. “I say that only because I look at the example of the Miami Marlins, and (a new stadium) didn’t really solve their attendance issues. So from purely an attendance standpoint, somewhere else might be better.”
The Rays announced plans for a new ballpark in Tampa earlier this year. Longoria disagrees with the organization’s preferred Ybor City site that has been identified as the top choice for a new destination. If the franchise is to stay in Tampa, he says it should move across the street from Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Longoria also lobbied for a stadium with a retractable roof, similar to Houston’s Minute Maid Park.
The Rays have been plagued by low attendance for most of its history and last season ranked the worst in baseball by averaging just 15,670 fans per home game.
“It pains me to say that, but players want to play in a place where you have consistent support,” said Longoria. “It’s a selfish thing to say probably as a player, but, I don’t know, does anyone really want to play in front of 10,000 a night? I don’t know. I’m glad I won’t have to hear the backlash again this time (for making comments about attendance, as when he played there).
“There are a lot of dedicated Rays fans … and obviously it would be a shame for those people to lose the team,” he added. “But you just hope there is consistent fan support, and it historically hasn’t been there. I don’t know that it’s the easiest case to lobby to build a new stadium in the area. It’s not a slam dunk.”
Longoria, 32, spent 10 years with the Rays and is the franchise leader in several offensive categories.