"Keep the Rays in St. Pete," says new grass-roots group

11:32 AM, Apr 14, 2012   |    comments
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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - While a grass-roots group trying to lure the Rays to Tampa is approaching it's third birthday, a similar group has formed in St. Petersburg.

"KeepTheRaysInStPete.com" is the brainchild of Clearwater's Bill McArdle and St. Petersburg's Enoch Nicholson - Rays fans who found each other through their common interest: keeping the baseball franchise in Pinellas County.

TIMELINE: The Rays' Stadium Saga

McArdle says he took the step of forming the group after one too many wisecracks about the team and Tropicana Field from ESPN.

"It was time to show everybody how much fun it was to go to a Rays game," McArdle said, "and that location was not the issue."

The Bucs season-ticket holder and frequent Lightning patron said his mind was made up about the Trop after getting stuck in traffic at other local venues...as well as nearly a dozen other Major League parks around the country.

"Not one stadium has been easy to get to during game day, and nobody complains," McArdle says of other MLB stadiums.  "If you're a fan, you go; you don't complain about driving across (the Howard Frankland Bridge), which is not that bad."

The group acknowledges Tropicana Field isn't the best building in baseball - and maybe not the best in Tampa Bay, either - but contends that fans should overlook the downsides for the perks of The Trop: easy ingress/egress, a thriving downtown district only a mile away, options for free parking, and affordable tickets.

McArdle says he'd like a new stadium, but realizes it may be cost-prohibitive for Tampa Bay.  And one is built, it may as well be in Pinellas County.

He says MLB's first energy-conscience "green" stadium next to the existing park in St. Petersburg could capitalize on federal grants, existing infrastructure, and available bed tax dollars.  But he's not holding his breath.

The group printed up 60 shirts for the team's opener this year and they sold 59 of them. The last one went to St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster, who didn't return our request for comment tonight.

Find 10 News Investigator Noah Pransky on Facebook or follow his updates on Twitter. Read his Sports Business Blog at Shadow of the Stadium.

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