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Rays president reacts to ‘deflating’ news from MLB

Mark Parker

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The Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Photo: City of St. Petersburg.

In a move that Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg called “flat-out deflating” Thursday, Major League Baseball’s Executive Council decided to end the team’s ongoing efforts to build new, open-air stadiums in both Tampa Bay and Montreal.

In a virtual meeting with the press Thursday, Sternberg said the team made great strides in both markets, which made the council’s rejection all the more painful. Sternberg said he was thankful for the open-mindedness and support of civic, business and political leaders across Tampa Bay as the team worked to bring the plan to fruition.

Sternberg also said he appreciated the passion from members of the Rays community who did not approve of the proposal but were willing to listen and engage in constructive dialogue. Sternberg said he understood that many fans wanted the team in the area full-time, but he did what he thought was best for the future of the team in Tampa Bay.

“People did disagree with this, and I understand it, and we respected and listened to the dialogue,” said Sternberg. “We answered some of these issues, and anybody who’s a Rays fan is aces in my book.”

The eight-member MLB Executive Council first permitted the team to explore the split-city plan in 2019. Since then, Rays executives have toured the region stating the proposal was the only way to keep the team in Tampa Bay. Sternberg said that in the 17 years since he took over the team, his goal was always to keep the team in Tampa Bay, for generations.

Sternberg noted the Rays have previously tried to build for a full season in St. Petersburg and Tampa to no avail. He said the upcoming season – currently in lockout over a new labor agreement – will help determine the franchise’s next step.

“We’ll see how the stands look this year and the support we get, and that’s going to help inform us as well going forward on our plans,” said Sternberg.

Sternberg said he is open to proposals from both Tampa and St. Petersburg to host the team full-time. However, in light of MLB’s unexpected decision to quash the plan for a split season, Sternberg said now was not the time to broach the subject. He said those discussions will occur “in due time.”

Sternberg stressed that he was shocked at MLB’s decision to nix the idea after 2.5 years of encouraging the team to explore the possibility. In February 2020, Commissioner Rob Manfred told the Tampa Bay Times that he and other team owners were convinced that a split-season approach was the best way to keep baseball in Tampa Bay. Sternberg said he thought other executives understood the upside to the proposal and felt MLB was also on board.

“These fellows understood it was good for the game,” said Sternberg. “Then recently, it just sort of took a turn to the south, and we don’t precisely know why.

“I think at the end of the day, it just wasn’t anything MLB was prepared to go forward with.”

 

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ray

    January 20, 2022at5:07 pm

    Stuey Stuey, oh oh, its Stuey Stuey.
    Sel your % of team Stu to local owners, stay in NY & watch how fast a new stadium is built apart of the Trop redevelopment. Another great day in the Burg. We kept trying to tell them, no how no way will that work or Rays are leaving, so please sell Rays to local owners, so we can build a stadium in St. Pete, FLA they’re here to stay.

  2. Avatar

    HAL

    January 20, 2022at11:17 pm

    So now it’s a $1B+ stadium. Since the Rays were willing to pay $350M in each city for smaller stadiums, will they put up $700M for the larger stadium? If the 39 Tampa corporations that signed the letter supporting the Rays each put up $10M to show their support is more than just words, we taxpayers may be off the hook.

    I don’t see why public money should be used at all to build a “factory” for a for-profit company!

  3. Avatar

    monah

    January 21, 2022at10:28 am

    100, HAL!

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