Deal Must Be Reached With Tampa Bay Execs to Keep Rays in Princeton

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Time is running out for one minor league baseball team to stay in Mercer County.

If the Princeton Rays leave Princeton, it would put a gaping hole in the city’s economy during the summertime. 

A Mercer County summer baseball tradition and economic boom of decades could soon be coming to a close. The Princeton Rays are near the end of a contract year with their parent Major League Baseball organization, the Tampa Bay Rays.

Right now, it remains up in the air if the Tampa Bay franchise will keep the Princeton Rays an active minor league baseball club.  

“With Bluefield so close, the economic impact for our county, much less the community is very important to what professional baseball does for us,” Dewey Russell, Princeton Baseball Board of Directors member said.  “And we’ve had a pretty good run.”

Robert Farley, Mercer County Chamber of Commerce president, agrees that keeping the Rays in Princeton is an important economic impact for the city during the summertime. Especially with traveling families of all the players.

“You’re talking about two nights of motel and food and gas,” Farley said. “So it affects the economy during the summertime. It would be a blow to us if they should happen to leave.”

But the Princeton Rays have recently struggled with putting fans in the seats. At the box office this past season, they saw one of their lowest marks in attendance in franchise history.

“Sometimes people think, well do I go to a baseball game tonight, or do I go to the grocery store and buy some food,” Farley said. “It’s got to that point for some of these people who have lost their jobs.”

The Princeton Rays have provided an economic boost of about $1 million every summer to the city for the past 20 years. Its general manager said there haven’t been any talks of a contract extension with the Tampa Bay Rays organization since more than a week ago. 

The deadline for the two sides to reach a deal is next week.

Follow @Joe_Putrelo on Twitter. 

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