SBD/January 18, 2012/Facilities

St. Pete Mayor, Rays Owner Meet To Discuss Marketing And Communication Improvement

Sternberg said he expects attendance to improve in '12 after last year's "great finish"

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg yesterday held a "much-anticipated sit-down for about two hours in Rays offices," according to Nohlgren & van Sickler of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. Foster "declined to comment" on the meeting, and said that he "wanted to brief City Council members before making any public statements." Sternberg "characterized the meeting as 'nothing dramatic' but did offer one optimistic note: He foresees 'a nice improvement' in attendance for 2012." Sternberg said, "We feel really good about it. We had a great finish last year. Our TV ratings increased dramatically in the last couple of months.'' But he added that any such improvement "does not change the team's determination to seek new stadium possibilities in Hillsborough County." Nor did his meeting with Foster "change the city's determination to stick to the Trop contract and forbid such discussions." Sternberg said that the meeting "mostly touched on ways to improve marketing and communication." Sternberg: "You kind of do a tune-up every six months or so -- a what's been bothering you, what's been bothering us? The city wants to know if they can help us promote the team, and we'd like to know what the city can do to help promote the team and work together in that vein.'' Nohlgren & van Sickler note several council members "were pleased." Relations have been "testy for 19 months, since Sternberg announced that he would not discuss new stadium sites in Pinellas County unless he can research Hillsborough sites as well" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/18).

READING THE TEA LEAVES: WTSP-CBS' Noah Pransky wrote yesterday "may have been the meeting needed to break the stadium stalemate; it also may have been much ado about nothing" (WTSP.com, 1/17). WFTS-ABC's Tom Korun wrote, "Let's face it; the two [have] a completely different agenda that won't ever be resolved." Korun: "So what was gained by Tuesday's meeting? Nothing. ... I'm quite sure that Sternberg understands if he wants to meander over to Hillsborough County with lawsuits chasing him from behind, he better bring millions with him to the table. I'm just guessing here, but I think Stu would have to put up more than half the freight for a new ballpark to even get some legs with the Hillsborough County voters. ... I am also going to take the Lightning word that owner Jeff Vinik is not and will not be interested in buying the Rays if they get the green light to relocate to Tampa" (ABCACTIONNEWS.com, 1/17).

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