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Volume 25 No. 239
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New Home For Rays In St. Pete No Sure Thing Despite MLB Support

It is unclear if the Rays will stay at the Trop in St. Petersburg without markedly better fan support

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred stressed that the league is focused on a new ballpark in St. Petersburg for the Rays, but "striking a deal to build a new home there also will be a complicated and challenging process," according to Romano & Topkin of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. There are "significant issues beyond covering the hundreds of millions in costs: the stadium location, the viability of remaining in that part of the market, and whether MLB would approve staying given the team’s past struggles." Rays Owner Stuart Sternberg: "I have to start looking. At some point in the next 36 months, I have to explore seriously where the team is going.” The "three key leaders in the project, Manfred, Sternberg and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, all have different views on what has to happen to make it work." Sternberg on Friday said that he "didn't yet know" if the club would be interested in staying in St. Petersburg because "they’d have to be convinced that they would get markedly better support." Sternberg said that he would also "have to convince Manfred and the other owners that it was a wise decision." Kriseman "remained confident through the talks in Tampa that the Rays would come back to St. Petersburg." But he also said that he "won’t make the first move." The Rays "say they won’t know for a while, maybe a few months." Sternberg also said that he has "no plans to ask for another window, but suggested the Tampa leaders could if they were ready to make a better deal" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 2/9). 

HAVE TO START SOMEWHERE? In Tampa, Marc Topkin notes Sternberg at the team's Saturday Fan Fest "confirmed the Rays are finally set to sign a long-awaited new local TV deal." That "means an increase" in revenues from the $30M they got in '18. However, it is "not nearly as much as the Rays had once hoped." Sternberg estimated the new deal would "rank about 20th in the majors." Completion of the deal is "complicated by the ongoing sale" of Fox' RSNs, with MLB as "one of the potential buyers." Sternberg: "There’s a structure of a deal. But there’s still just too much (unsettled). … We don’t know who’s going to own the thing." Manfred "suggested the new TV deal could help the effort to get a new stadium built in the area." He said, “It’s an improvement in their revenue stream and that’s always a positive" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 2/10).