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5. Since Tampa-St. Pete already has a domed stadium, isn't that a plus? Not necessarily. In recent years, major league baseball—not to mention fans and players—has stressed a preference for open-air ballparks with grass fields. So why did St. Petersburg build the Suncoast Dome?
"Floridians love air-conditioning more than they love their wives," says Dodge. "The state didn't start to develop until air-conditioning came along. The biggest event at [domeless] Tampa Stadium recently was a rally for General Norman Schwarzkopf, and only 28,000 people went. Floridians don't go out in the heat of the day. If they don't go out for Norman Schwarzkopf, do you think they'll go out 81 times a year for baseball?"
6. If Tampa-St. Pete doesn't get a baseball team, who will play in the Suncoast Dome? The Seattle Mariners will. Or some other discontented franchise. At least that's a theory suggested by some observers: Tampa-St. Pete, with a stadium and all the amenities in place to take in a troubled team immediately, is a very attractive relocation option for baseball to have at the ready. So having a shiny new stadium could, oddly enough, work against the Tampa-St. Pete expansion effort.
7. And what do folks in Seattle think about the Mariners moving to St. Pete? "We're already starting to hear it," says Seattle principal owner Jeff Smulyan of the rumor that his club will jump to one of the cities that doesn't get a team. "What happens is, other communities get so excited looking at our [small] local TV contract, our [weak] corporate community support and the [poor] relationship we've had with our government, and they say, 'Hey, we can do better than that.' "
Smulyan says he has no intentions of moving—but he's also a smart businessman. Sources say he's having difficulty paying the bills, because his local TV contract pays so little. And despite a recent surge in Mariners attendance, baseball just isn't a big deal in recreation-rich Seattle. Though Vincent frowns on the idea of franchise moves, he also says he would not prevent one if economics dictated a relocation.
8. Where does Orlando stand in this Floridian frenzy? With a lot of cash and not much chance. Richard DeVos, the man attempting to bring a major league team to Orlando, is a cofounder of Amway. According to Forbes, DeVos is worth $1.3 billion, making him easily the wealthiest of the expansion financiers. But he entered the race a little too late, which prevented the Orlando group from getting properly prepared.
The group does, however, have a name: the SunRays. And the SunRays already have a manager, former major league catcher Bob Boone. Unfortunately, the team doesn't have a proper place to play. The SunRays would have to play one season and maybe more at Baseball City, the spring training facility of the Kansas City Royals. It's a nice little park—7,000 seats expandable to 25,000—but it's not a big league stadium, and sources say the expansion committee finds that a drawback. The Orlando group says it is prepared to build a baseball palace that could be ready by 1994. But Orlando is still caught in a squeeze between the other two Florida cities, meaning the SunRays probably won't shine in this century.
9. Is the American League happy about the National League possibly taking two Florida cities? No, but there's not much the American League can do about it. Throughout discussions on expansion, American League owners have contended that the National League should not be able to put both teams in Florida, considered the most lucrative untapped marketplace for the majors. But that's up to the expansion committee, which is made up exclusively of National Leaguers, and sources say that neither the American League owners nor Vincent will attempt to block a Florida-Florida decision.
10. If baseball doesn't go for a double-dip in Florida, why will it go to Denver? Vincent once said that expansion would go "where baseball isn't," and baseball isn't anywhere near Denver. A Denver franchise would be the only big league team within a 600-mile radius, and the only one in the Mountain time zone. One owner in the National League West says he would prefer Denver to Florida because it would shorten travel and save money. Night games in Denver would start at 6:35 Pacific time; night games in Florida would begin at 4:35 Pacific time. West Coast teams say that 4:35 p.m. games could hurt their TV ratings. On the other hand, night games in Denver would start at 9:35 Eastern time, which wouldn't be favorable to East Coast teams.
11. Just how far will a baseball fan drive to see a game in Denver? Denver boosters trumpet the fact that there are nearly three million people within a 100-mile radius of the city and contend that this will be a regional team. But will people from New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas pack up the kids and drive 200 to 300 miles to watch expansion ball?