Rays owner conducted study of moving to Montreal, says a guy

So on Sunday, this happened:


For those of you who ne parlent pas français:

Serious! Stewart Sternberg, owner of the Tampa Bay Rays RECENTLY funded a study of viability of a stadium in Griffintown. Sternberg is the main shareholder (48%) of the Rays he wishes to move and not sell and Mtl, is top of the list. Griffintown would be the ideal site. It’s two small steps from downtown.

According to Patrice Derome (hi, Patrice!), Trudel — whose Twitter bio describes him as a “journaliste et commentateur sportif sans attache,” which is exactly what it sounds like — subsequently went on the radio and said that the study was conducted a few months back. What the study consisted of, and what it found, I couldn’t tell you.

I’d be tempted to say this is just Sternberg trying to throw a scare into Tampa Bay area cities, except that if so, you’d think he’d have leaked it to a journalist avec attache, at least. Though since, as Noah Pransky notes at Shadow of the Stadium, this would potentially be a violation of the Rays lease clause that only allows Sternberg to look at alternate stadium sites within the bay area, maybe he had to go super-stealth mode on this? Or maybe he’s really considering moving the team to Montreal, or doing due diligence to see how expensive a Tampa Bay stadium would have to be before it would be worth his while to move, or just wanted an excuse to try some of those funny bagels. We’re deep, deep into speculation here, so please no freaking out and/or getting to excited just yet, especially since the Rays can’t leave Tampa Bay until 2027 regardless, at which point the onrushing death of cable will likely have made the sports business market unrecognizable anyway.

The Rays, for their part, promptly said nothing at all:

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23 comments on “Rays owner conducted study of moving to Montreal, says a guy

  1. The Rays’ statement doesn’t seem to reveal much at first glance, but you definitely get the feeling that they’d prefer to pit one market against another, rather than just one TB-area city against another.

  2. Sans attache indeed!

    The real question is re: the Ray’s alleged response (which was really not a response to anything in particular, despite how some people might choose to interpret it):

    Are they talking about human generations? Turtle generations? Paramecium generations?

    I think we should be told…

  3. FYI, Pierre Trudel is a very well known journalist for more than 40 years. He worked for several medias, TV, newspapers, radios. He’s now retired but still active and very well respected.

    So it’s not “a guy”, it’s a serous “guy” that have nothing to prove.

    1. Even if he were a guy at the New York Times, he’s still reporting an unsourced story. Grain de sel massif required.

    2. I know who he is.

      The problem is it is still just one person putting forward a story with really no backing information. The study is not provided or linked as far as I can tell.

      While Mr. Trudel’s claims about Sternberg ‘funding’ a study may ultimately be proven true, any journalist knows that unattributed stories and claims do not carry significant weight, particularly if the study referenced cannot be provided.

  4. Off the specific topic (but related to one of the links):

    It is generally understood that pay tv viewership is down and that this has many contributing causes (some not even related to interest/demand, but the broader economy).

    But the more interesting thing to me is that fees for service are still going up for the most part. My two sports networks (totalling eleven channels) costs me the equivalent of U$ 16 per month, split evenly between the two major content providers.

    ESPN has raised it’s fee from $5.10 to $7.20 in three years (IIRC, it was done in two big jumps, not gradually) and is seeing a huge loss of subscribers.

    No doubt a significant percentage of the lost customers are cord cutters for whom nothing could entice them back – they get the things they actually want via other providers at a better cost. What we don’t know is what percentage of those were not ESPN watchers anyway, but paid for packages that included ESPN/etc. Thus, because of the somewhat contrived business model that packaged programming creates, ESPN set it’s budgets and fees based on false information on how many people were actually willing to pay for it’s service.

    What doesn’t seem to be happening is any real discussion within the company about lowering it’s price back toward the $5 range, where people seemed (at least at the time) willing to pay in greater numbers. No way to know if this would be successful (or to what degree), but it doesn’t appear to be under consideration. Perhaps they’ve moved their content away from what people actually want, or perhaps they have just misread how much people are willing to pay.

    I love sports and currently pay for the channels that show me what I want (sometimes). But even for me there is a limit to what I will pay. Will ESPN attempt to recoup some of it’s lost customers by reducing prices?

    In any business, the owner has a point at which the price of his/her product generates maximum revenue. This is usually not the “highest” price the market will bear, as backing off peak pricing produces sustained demand (in a way that ‘dynamic pricing’ for sports teams appears not to do).

    At some point, someone in the pay tv world is going to have to realize that there is a limit to what viewers will pay for any given product. At that point, I would expect fees to be dropping significantly.

    At the moment, my service provider is eliminating channels supplied in it’s packages and increasing fees in an attempt to replace the revenue lost through cord cutters. This is, of course, akin to trying to smother a fire with gasoline.

    1. Some of that is like the Yankees parking garages responding to being half-empty by raising prices: “Fewer people want our business, we better gouge the heck out of the folks who have no alternative!” But also, ESPN is hedging like crazy by investing in streaming tech — I have no doubt that ESPN will still be a thriving enterprise in another ten years, and will primarily be a website like Netflix.

      However, once you detach sports viewership from the local cable companies, then the whole structure of local vs. national media dollars goes out the window, and something new and as yet unforeseeable has to replace it. Which is why I think it’s dumb to speculate on where, if anywhere, it would make sense for the Rays to move in 2027.

      1. Yes ESPN will be a different animal in 2027. So will Montreal. Anyone who remember baseball will be a senior citizen and everyone else a hockey , soccer or basketball fan. As for Canadian football it will need another NFL bailout to keep it going another generation.

        1. The ten to twelve year olds who remember MLB in Mtl will be in their early to mid thirties by 2027.

          The NFL “bailout” was actually a loan that the CFL repaid. Most CFL teams are now profitable on operations and are, relatively speaking, economically healthy.

          That league has, literally, never been in a stronger financial position than it is now. It could outgrow it’s present economic model and fail, but then, so could the NFL.

          0 for 2, then.

          1. Your math is as fuzzy as attendance figures at sporting events. Also the government made a profit from bailing out AIG , oops I mean Loan ! Also the CFL is trending downward on both attendance and TV ratings and have demographics equal to golf. The biggest most important market wants nothing to do with football and Montreal and Vancouver are even starting to have problems. It took the league years to find an owner for their biggest market. That league should have been allowed to die years ago just like the Australian baseball league until MLB came in and bailed them out !

          2. My bad to Mr. Bladen , those will indeed be in their mid thirties. 2004 seems like a super long time ago. However those 30 year olds will only remember how the team abandoned their fans and city. Chances are they have other interest or resentment for MLB.

  5. NFL ratings are down double digits in one year and trending downward since 2013. Yet right fees go up and ad prices go up. You can cord cut but if your buying any of the products buying those ads your still paying for the crap product that NFL puts out since America discovered football kills its players.

    1. When you buy advertising on NFL you’re not buying the on field product, you’re buying the eyeballs of people watching it. Right now, they’re valuable because people watch sports live, and don’t tend to skip over the commercials the way they do recorded shows.

  6. In the USA, Sternberg spells his first name ‘Stuart.
    If Sternberg is moving the Rays to Montreal, hurry up already so that the Tampa Bay taxpayers do not get gouged for hundreds of millions of dollars.

  7. Does anyone know if the Rays would have to compensate The Blue Jays
    if they were allowed to move up here?

    1. The Blue Jays don’t have territorial rights to Montreal, no. They do have TV rights to all of Canada, but that’s just because everywhere is in somebody’s TV territory.

      Basically, it would be up to MLB to set the rules about whether a Montreal team would have to compensate the Jays for loss of TV territory. And even then, it probably wouldn’t be cash, but rather a one-sided TV deal like what the Nats agreed to with the O’s.

  8. It would be of interest to know, if this alleged study really happened, whether it was targetted on a single prospective host city or if others also included.

    This is the problem with people leaking data on their twitter feeds etc: We don’t have a document. We just have someone saying that there is a document and this is what it says (or part of what it says). No context, no additional information… just a statement made in isolation.

  9. My ex girlfriend when I lived in Oregon, who is a real estate agent told me that Mr Sternberg was looking at homes in Portland just this past weekend..

    1. The woman I pay alimony to says when he went grocery shopping in Portland he bought some Canadian beer. So there.

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