After MLB commissioner Bud Selig called the Tampa Bay Rays stadium situation (brief recap: they have a stadium, they just don’t like it) “not tolerable” last week, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg chimed in Tuesday to capitalize on Selig’s comments, and express vague optimism about getting a new stadium built:
“The verbiage within baseball, which I probably first brought public a bit in Spring Training a year and change ago — not this past spring, the year before — there was talk back then and it’s been ratcheted up dramatically. There’s pressure coming from other owners as well, who are not pleased with the situation and the money that they are sharing with us and the extent of it.”…
Sternberg was asked if the recent dialogue has led to a timetable for when the issue needs to come to a head.
“There’s no secret that the Mayor [of St. Petersburg] and I have had a number of conversations over a lengthy period of time,” Sternberg said. “And I would like to believe that that is going to bear some fruit and put this franchise on great footing for years to come.”
The Tampa Bay Times further reports that “City Council Chairman Karl Nurse said city and team lawyers ‘have been trying to draft an agreement’ for months that would allow the Rays to look at potential stadium sites in Tampa, as well as St. Petersburg.” That’s a little bit of a surprise, given that Mayor Bill Foster has been dead-set against allowing Sternberg even to talk to officials in Tampa, and the city council earlier this year voted not to let him do so even if he paid an “exploration fee.”
Still, maybe Foster and the council have decided that enh, go ahead and let Sternberg look at sites, then they can tell him how much money he’ll have to pay to get out of his lease early. And then Sternberg can complain about how he doesn’t have the money to do all this — don’t forget, not only doesn’t he have a site, but his stadium dream doesn’t have even the inkling of a funding plan — and it’ll be Tampa’s fault for not coming up with the money, instead of Foster’s fault for being obstructionist, or whatever he’s ostensibly doing by holding Sternberg to his lease. There’d be a risk here — if Sternberg is able to create some media momentum for a site elsewhere, then there’d be pressure on Foster to haggle over the price — but maybe Foster feels like he’s tired of not talking about stadium sites, and would rather not talk about stadium funding instead.
Or maybe Nurse, who’s previously expressed a desire to get stadium talks moving, just decided to create some momentum on his own. He certainly made lots of headlines, so step one, check!