Selig May Intervene As Ballpark Talks Between Rays, St. Petersburg Have "Stalled"
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig on Thursday said that the "slow pace of stadium talks" between the Rays and the city of St. Petersburg may "prompt him to intervene," according to a front-page piece by Stephen Nohlgren of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. Selig said Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg had given him a "very discouraging" update on Tuesday. Selig: "We were optimistic that this was moving in a very positive direction. Unfortunately, we are stalled." But St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster "scoffed at Selig's comment that talks have stalled." Foster said, "We had a great conversation this week. The fact that we met Monday does not lend credence to his statement.'' Foster declined to say when the next meeting with the Rays would take place, but said the parties are "still talking." Sternberg said, "I am still optimistic that we can make progress to ensure baseball thrives in Tampa Bay for generations to come. To this point, MLB has left it in my hands to come up with a solution." Hillsborough County Commission Chair Ken Hagan, who has been "active in seeking to position his county as an option for a new Rays stadium, said Selig's statement Thursday underscored the importance of ramping up the dialogue." Nohlgren notes Selig's office occasionally has "injected itself in other local stadium disputes, including a committee that for years has tried to find a new home" for the A's. An MLB exec also "took an active role in negotiations between the Marlins, the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County, who jockeyed for years before reaching a deal" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 8/16).
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: The club is locked in its current lease at outdated Tropicana Field until ‘27 and ranks next-to-last in attendance in the league despite six straight winning seasons. Selig declined to specify how MLB would get involved, but signaled that Sternberg will no longer be seeking a solution alone. Selig said, "We need a resolution. This is a very troubling situation. They've been a model organization." Sternberg added his inability to reach a ballpark deal in nearly eight years of owning the franchise "has reached a boiling point." Sternberg: "Something needs to be done. It's been too long, and there's a frustration at the league level that I haven't been able to get this done." Selig declined comment when asked if relocation out of the Tampa area was a possibility, but Sternberg downplayed that option (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer). ESPN.com's David Schoenfield wonders if the Rays would "be better supported if the ballpark were located in Tampa or another neighboring city?" Or does the region "just lack the fervor to better support the franchise?" Thursday's Mariners-Rays game "drew 13,299 fans; as a comparison, the horrible Brewers, playing in a smaller metro market, drew more than 36,000." The Tampa-St. Pete market is "larger than St. Louis, Baltimore, Denver, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati or Cleveland." The Rays "might be stuck if no solution arises" (ESPN.com, 8/16).