Strangely, major league baseball has never had a franchise in Florida, a state that cheerfully supports many spring training camps. The folks of Tampa Bay may change that someday, if the game ever decides it's ready to expand again.
The Pinellas Sports Authority was created three years ago by the state Legislature to study the feasibility of building and operating a sports complex in Pinellas County. Not long ago the organization came out with some slick promotional material stating that Tampa Bay is eager and ready for a big-league team, which would play its games in "the most exciting baseball stadium in the world."
That, at least, is what project architect Ralph Myers calls the 45,000-seat stadium now on the drawing board. Myer's partner was involved in planning Royals Stadium in Kansas City, Detroit's Silverdome, and the New Jersey Meadowlands. The most interesting feature of the proposed stadium would be a huge fiber-glass canopy that would shelter the field from rain and catch prevailing breezes.
The approximately 1.5 million people living in the St. Petersburg-Tampa area make it the nation's 24th-largest metropolitan area. Tampa Bay is already supporting two professional teams, football's Buccaneers and soccer's Rowdies, and figures it has the edge over cities like Buffalo, Indianapolis, and New Orleans in eventually landing an expansion baseball club.
It chief rivals might be Washington, Denver, and Miami.
Some people possibly assume that Because six existing clubs have their winter homes in Tampa Bay, residents may get burned out on baseball. But perhaps not. the minor league St. Petersburg Cardinals led Class A in attendance in 1979.