Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg granted a long interview yesterday to his favorite mouthpiece Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, in which he said a lot of stuff about his failure to land a stadium deal in Hillsborough County (the Tampa side of the bay) before last December’s deadline, and the possibility of landing a stadium deal in Pinellas County (the St. Pete side) now. We can skip over most of it — “We’re not going to stand in the way of progress, and we want to be part of it” is an almost perfect English sentence devoid of semantic meaning — but there is this:
“I think the support part of it is much more important than the funding part, but the funding part is incredibly important,’’ he said. “If we had 30,000-35,000 walking through the door every night and we had naming rights and we had big sponsors, the funding would be a layup. But if we continue to have 8,000, 12,000, 15,000 a night and not expand our sponsorship roles, it could be all the funding in the world and it’s meaningless.’’
In other words, Sternberg is saying that if a new stadium were going to turn the Rays into, say, the Boston Red Sox or even the Washington Nationals, then he’d be happy to spend money on one. But building a new stadium just to have a new stadium doesn’t make any sense if it’s not going to generate any new revenues. Which, hey, is pretty much exactly the dilemma I spelled out last week in Deadspin, though Sternberg seems too have missed the corollary conclusions that Tampa might have this exact same problem, and that maybe building a new stadium isn’t really a “solution” to anything anyway and he should instead focus on how to get fans to games at his actually existing ballpark.
Sternberg also said he could have levied threats to try to get Tampa to offer more money toward a stadium but “that’s just not my style,” then dropped a threat — not quoted directly by Topkin, only paraphrased — that if there’s no stadium solution soon he’d have to start looking elsewhere for a new home once his lease expires after 2027. Speaking of rich-guy membership having its privileges, it sure must be nice to be able to say whatever you want in the sports pages whenever you want without fear of having your assertions questioned.