Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg completed his tour of the region’s county commissions yesterday, following up Thursday’s “Don’t make Bud mad” performance with an appearance at the Pinellas County Commission in which he said he needs to draw 30,000 fans a year, and that can only happen if he gets a new stadium not in downtown St. Petersburg.
Rays owner Stuart Sternberg told commissioners that fewer than 300 St. Pete residents have season-ticket accounts, accounting for just shy of 1,000 season tickets. Sternberg pointed out a lack of business support in St. Petersburg, Tampa Bay’s fourth-biggest business center.
Sternberg mentioned North St. Pete’s Carillon/Gateway region, Tampa’s Westshore, and Tampa’s downtown as more viable locations, indicating a new stadium in the right place could draw 30,000 fans a game.
10 News also questioned Sternberg about the likelihood of drawing 30,000 fans regularly when several playoff teams with new stadiums failed to draw 30,000 fans per game this year.
“I believe in baseball,” Sternberg responded, before looking for the next question.
Okay, but seriously, Sternberg has done marketing studies or something that show that his team would bring in more money in another location, right?
Me: "Rays haven't studied ANYTHING about what kind of revenues new park would bring?" Sternberg: "What's the point?"
— Noah Pransky – WTSP (@noahpransky) January 29, 2013
Basically, Sternberg’s performance was meant to reiterate the same arguments he’s been hammering for years now: He wants a new stadium somewhere other than downtown St. Pete, but he’s not going to even think about where until he’s allowed to look everywhere in the region. Commission chair Ken Welch said he agreed with Sternberg — “I don’t see another way forward” — but with St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster still insisting on holding the Rays to their lease running through 2027, all this really amounted to was a PR campaign to paint Foster as obstructionist.
And, of course, to get people focused on the “where” of building a stadium, not the “how.” In fact, Sternberg said the question of how to pay for it, like the question of how much money he’d make from it, is the furthest thing from his mind:
“We are not asking for a nickel,” he told the commission. “It’s like going out to buy a car. I’m not asking how it is going to be financed. I just want to look around and see what kind of car we can drive.”
Wait, he doesn’t ask who’s paying for a car before deciding which one to test drive? The rich really are different from you and me.