Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg: MLB No Longer Believes In The Tampa Bay Area
Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg said Thursday he "wants to keep his team in the region, but ‘Major League Baseball at this point no longer believes in the Tampa Bay area,’” according to a front-page piece by Stephen Nohlgren of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. Sternberg told the Hillsborough County Commission, "Put yourself in their place. They look at the success, we have an exciting team, and then they see where the gate is. They don't care whether it's Clearwater, St. Petersburg or Tampa. They just know this as Tampa Bay.” Sternberg would not “speculate about what action baseball officials might take, or when.” He did “soften his statements at times, suggesting that a new stadium in the right location could keep the team in Tampa Bay.” But his “underlying message -- that time is running short -- struck a chord.” Commission Chair Ken Hagan said, "It's not a matter of whether the Rays ultimately relocate but when and where. To simply put our heads in the sand and take the position that the issue will mysteriously resolve is short-sighted.” MLB in response released a statement later on Thursday that read in part, "The status quo is simply not sustainable.” Thursday's one-hour presentation was the team's “first wide-ranging, public stadium discussion since June 2010, when Sternberg announced that he needed to explore stadium options outside of St. Petersburg.” He would not say Thursday that “he prefers a downtown Tampa location, as many observers believe.” But he did say that fellow owners "will be looking to me to explain to them just why this market can work” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/25).
IF YOU BUILD IT...: MLB.com’s Adam Berry noted Sternberg, team President Matt Silverman, Senior VP/Development & Business Affairs Michael Kalt and Senior VP & Chief Sales Officer Mark Fernandez “didn't lay out a timeline for starting construction on a new stadium or say where they would like to build it.” But they did “present statistics and studies supporting their belief that staying at Tropicana Field won't work” (MLB.com, 1/24). A TAMPA BAY TIMES editorial states Thursday’s meeting “marked a welcome step toward building the regional support necessary to keep Major League Baseball.” It set the “appropriate tone, with the commissioners pledging to work as partners to preserve a regional asset.” The editorial: “Most importantly, the discussion underscored the urgency of the stadium situation.” Elected officials in both Hillsborough County and Pinellas County “need to embrace the same sense of regionalism that Sternberg sees as essential to the franchise's success” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/25).