Rays owner mumbly on pursuing stadium in St. Pete, whispers something about moving in 2028

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.


10 comments on “Rays owner mumbly on pursuing stadium in St. Pete, whispers something about moving in 2028

  1. he should just move the team to Orlando in 2028 and stop with these shenanigans.

  2. I just hope that I’m still alive come the end of the 2027 season (I’ll be pushing 80) so I can witness what hustle this carpetbagging grifter tries to pull off.

    • Based on past attendance figures, he could move them in 2028 and nobody in Tampa/St. Pete will catch on until 2030 or so.

  3. I’m not even sure one MLB team can succeed in Florida let alone two. Definitely not the Rays -no matter where in Florida they move.

    I think people are ignoring the way they built their franchise from the beginning and how it must have alienated potential fans. All of those cheap rosters and cost-cutting moves. The year they went to the World Series was their first ever winning season -and only their second with seventy or more wins- and they’ve only had six since. They’ve traded or let go of so many familiar faces and plenty of the young talent they basically tanked to draft without anything to show for it other than the lone World Series appearance. It’s honestly as if they were trying to fail at establishing a new MLB market.

    • Fans might accept the “small market, can’t really compete” argument if there was some evidence that Sternberg was really spending as much as he can.

      In fact, there’s quite a bit of evidence that he is farming the MLB subsidy (and he’s not alone in that…) and keeping expenses much lower than they really have to be based on revenue.

      Whatever people might say about some of the bigger market clubs ‘buying’ their way in to the playoffs, there are several who plow the vast majority of the baseball earnings right back into the playing and coaching talent (I seem to recall the Yankees, during their 3 titles in 4 years run, had a net reported profit of something under $20m over the entire 4 year run… and actually spent more than they took in in one of those years)

      • Fans need familiar faces to root for -especially when a team doesn’t win. The Marlins got away with it because they won two World Series in less than ten years but now you see them in a similar predicament to the Rays because they nosedived years ago and haven’t recovered since. In a small market, it isn’t really about payroll so much as either winning consistently or keeping fan favorites. The Rays have done neither. They had one anomolous run where they had five winning seasons in a short span but since they have been mediocre or worse -save for last season- and have had a ton of turnover. It really isn’t surprising nobody other than really weak public officials want to pay for anything.

        • And yet, look at the Padres, who are in a smaller market and likewise have dealt away any recognizable names – and have never won anything – and yet draw really well.

          • Invalid argument.
            San Diego ranks 8th highest population in the United States. Urban and Metro. 2010 U.S. Census.

            Urban 2,956,746
            Metro 3,317,749

          • Nope — San Diego is 17th in metro area, both in 2010 and in 2017, one spot ahead of Tampa Bay:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_metropolitan_statistical_areas

            And in TV market size, which is arguably a better gauge of potential fan base, Tampa Bay is well ahead:

            https://www.nielsen.com/content/dam/corporate/us/en/public%20factsheets/tv/2018-19-dma-ranker.pdf

  4. How I would save the Rays, if Stu sold the team to me.

    1. Announce that as long as I own the team, the Rays will not move anywhere else. Announce that I am committed to owning the team for at least 20 years to build a fan base.

    2. Announce that all Full season ticket holders get a free exclusove and customized team jersey of those choice. The Jersey will have an RFID chip that entitles the owner to free parking, 20% off all Merch and consessions. All half season ticket holders get a free Jersey and 15% off all merch and free parking. All 10 game season ticket holders get 2 games free, free parking and 10% off.

    3. Have 8-10 Pinellas days. Where all Pinnellas county residents get 20%off tickets and Consessions.

    4 have 8-10 Tampa bay days where all Residents in all counties bordering Tampa bay get 20% off.

    5. Lower the prices for all tickets by 15%

    6. In 2027, if I still can’t get or find a replacement stadium m, negotiate a lease of Steinbrenner field or upgrade the Clearwater stadium and play there. Basically build the stadium as funds allow.

    7. Start a promotion that if a Rays player hits a home run into the catwalk, then all fans get a free game!

    8. Spend to the major league average salary. And more as needed.

    9. Invite a Tampa Bay high school to play a doubleheader on Saturday game days after the Rays game.

    10. Promote a Tampa Bay high school base ball championship tournament to take place after a Rays game. Basically more baseball.

    11. Participate in the Lightning Community Of Hero’s program.

    All of these things worked for the Lightning. And they would work again. But the money has to come out of Stu’s pocket. but it is how you build a team.