Tampa Bay Rays owner Stu Sternberg said he is committed to keeping the baseball team in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, despite St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s rejection of a Rays’ proposal for the Tropicana Field site.
Sternberg said Kriseman mischaracterized the team’s plan for the Trop site during a Tuesday morning news conference.
Sternberg said he will keep talking to the mayor’s office, the St. Petersburg City Council and the Pinellas County Commission and continue to listen to the community about the Trop site.
“I want a stadium here and I want to a place to play baseball and I want fans to have a great place to be and to have a vibrant important area around it. However it takes that form, that’s all I’m interested in,” Sternberg said.
He also said he’s been talking with Tampa Mayor Jane Castor. Tampa and Hillsborough County officials have been trying to woo the Rays to play in a new stadium built on the east side of the Bay.
Sternberg spoke just minutes after Kriseman outlined the process that will take place over the next several months to choose a developer for the 86-acre Tropicana Field site in what’s been termed a “generational” opportunity.
Seven responses to a request for proposals for development plans are under consideration, and Kriseman said public benefit will be top of mind as he chooses a plan to move forward.
Kriseman said he had hoped the Rays, who have a lease to play baseball at Tropicana Field through the end of the 2027 season, would submit their own redevelopment plan or partner with a developer. The Rays instead offered their own plan for the site, Kriseman said.
“The Rays have asked the city to put aside almost 50 acres of the site, specifically the land to the east of Booker Creek, and of this 50 acres roughly 14 acres would be parkland. The remaining land would be controlled by the Rays, with the Rays owning all the land other than the land upon which the stadium was to sit. The city would receive no financial interest from transferring ownership of the land to the Rays, nor would the city receive development right proceeds on this land as it was developed. The Rays would retain 100 percent of those proceeds,” Kriseman said. “For the remaining land, located west of Booker Creek, the Rays have asked for 50 percent of the development right proceeds. If we were to accept this offer, because the Rays would have control over the 36 acres east of Booker Creek, which represents about 40 percent of the total site, we would have to reject all of the RFP responses and we’d then have to reissue an RFP for the remaining 36 acres west of Booker Creek.”
The city also would lose the ability to ensure the community’s input is heard about honoring the historical importance of the site as a former home to a thriving Black community, Kriseman said.
Sternberg attended the mayor’s press conference with team presidents Brian Auld and Matt Silverman. They stood quietly behind a line of news reporters while the mayor spoke. Sternberg held his own impromptu news conference afterwards.
“We’ve had conversations with the mayor for many months. I was very optimistic things were moving along,” Sternberg said. “We don’t speak about private conversations. Even when it suits us, as it does in this case, I still don’t talk about private conversations. But I would strongly disagree with [Kriseman]. I believe they [the Rays’ plans] were mischaracterized. There were proposals. There were discussions. The mayor chose to talk about them in a certain way and I would disagree that we had that approach.”
Sternberg did not go into details, but he described the Rays’ proposal as “a sketch on the back of a napkin almost, in pencil and not in marker,” and said he thought it was a beginning point to move discussions along. He declined to offer more details, saying he doesn’t negotiate in the press.
“We’ll leave that to private discussions and we look forward to being here for generations to come,” Sternberg said.
Sternberg also said he’s committed to a split season concept, with the team playing part of its season in Montreal.
“We feel as strong as we ever have about the split season concept. We know that part of it will be in Tampa Bay and part of it will be in Montreal and things are moving along incredibly well up there. There’s a lot of things that have moved, even through the pandemic. Things have been making real progress there. Maybe this is the beginning of making progress,” Sternberg said. “We’re here. We will be here at least through 2027. We’d like to make that 2127.”