Sternberg Says Rays May Only Be Able To Cover $150M Of New Ballpark Cost
Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg yesterday "provided a glimpse of the bigger challenge of paying" for a new ballpark at the proposed Ybor City site, "suggesting that based on initial projections the team might only cover" $150M of the projected $800M cost, according to a front-page piece by Marc Topkin of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. Sternberg said the team is "genuinely excited" about the site and more than "cautiously optimistic" the project can be completed. Speaking for the first time about the location pitched last month by Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, Sternberg said that the Rays had "input and feel the site 'looked clearly' to be the best of the workable Hillsborough options." Their contribution to the project will be "based on projections of how much their revenues would increase, and could end up being higher or lower" than $150M. Sternberg: "Our thought process is it’s probably in the $150 million range. We might find out that’s too much. We might find out that we can afford more." The Rays "need to see support from the community in terms of commitments for season tickets and sponsorships, hoping to increase both by" at least 50%. Also, the ballpark "needs to have a roof." Hagan "acknowledged negotiations over who will pay for the new digs could take a year and won’t be easy." He said, "I don’t know if we’ll ever get there." Sternberg added, "It’s going to take a lot of oars in the boat to pull this forward, but I know we’re committed. We’ve been waiting long enough certainly. Nobody wants this done sooner or better than we do, than I do. And we’re committed to seeing it through." He acknowledged that "'all data points say no' about staying in downtown St. Petersburg" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 11/16).
TURNING TO THE ON-FIELD PRODUCT: Rays President of Baseball Operations & GM Erik Neander talked about the on-field future of the club and noted the "progress made to our farm system and where we are today, relative to where we were a few years ago." Neander said, "While the Major League team ... has been treading water somewhere in the middle, we have what we feel is a lot of help on the way, which gives us optimism as we move forward." He said if tanking and only winning 50-some games "for a few years in a row would guarantee us a World Series -- I think that we would probably sign up for anything that would guarantee us a World Series." But Neander noted there are a "number of different ways to do it." Neander: "We'll just look to be as flexible and as responsive to the market as we can be as we go through the winter. ... As a smaller market, you need to be flexible with your thinking, be responsive to the market and keep an open mind. We believe in our young Major League core and those prospects that we have which gives us hope, gives us excitement as we move forward. But as a small market I just do not think that you can have one specific plan at any given time with respect to how you go about things. I think that you need to have many different plans that, with the push of a button, you can execute which will give us the best chance to be flexible, to be nimble and to put us in the best chance to improve upon where we are right now” (“High Heat,” MLB Network, 11/15).