SBD/October 12, 2012/Facilities

Rays To Explore New Stadium In Pinellas County, Ask For Amendment To Trop Lease

Rays ranked last in MLB attendance for the '12 regular season
The Rays on Thursday said that they are “interested in exploring a private developer's proposal for a new stadium in mid Pinellas County -- as long as the city also allows them to negotiate with other interested parties on possible sites in Hillsborough County,” according to Stephen Nohlgren of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg in a letter to St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster “proposed that the city and team amend the contract that binds the Rays to Tropicana Field through 2027.” The contract currently “forbids the Rays from negotiating with anyone on a new stadium.” Based on that provision, the city has “threatened [to] sue the team or anyone who negotiates with the team on a new site.” The Rays' proposed amendment “would allow them to negotiate a new venue anywhere in Pinellas or Hillsborough, while giving the city veto power over any final deal.” The letter also “promises that the Rays would begin their stadium search by holding detailed discussions with CityScape, a private development firm that shook up the region's stadium prospects two weeks ago by presenting detailed plans, drawings and demographic studies" for a proposed $540-570M stadium in Carillon Business Park. The team “sent out letters accepting previous offers to update county commissioners on both sides of the bay about the stadium hunt” (TAMPABAY.com, 10/11). Nohlgren in a separate piece notes Foster did "characterize Sternberg's letter as 'open dialogue.'" City Attorney John Wolfe said of a possible counteroffer, "We are going to look at it, see what we can add and see what we might take out." After the Rays' "waterfront stadium proposal fizzled in 2008, there has been little give and take between the team and the city." But a "splashy presentation of the Carillon proposal two weeks ago lit a spark" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 10/12).

TIME FOR A CHANGE: CBSSPORTS.com's Dayn Perry writes the fact that the Rays "want out of Tropicana Field isn't exactly a secret." The location "is bad, most of the facilities are sub-par relative to the rest of Major League Baseball and the Rays ranked last in" MLB attendance in '12. Perry: "No mater what happens, both the Rays and their loyal fans deserve better. That's too good a franchise to continue drawing less than 20,000 fans per game (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/11).
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