Tampa Bay Rays owner Stu Sternberg, taking advantage of his newly confirmed right to talk before 2028 about moving the Rays out of St. Petersburg (but not to talk about moving the Rays out of St. Petersburg before 2028), met for 2.5 hours yesterday with Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan about splitting the team between new stadiums in Tampa and Montreal, and also not splitting the team between new stadiums in Tampa and Montreal:
“The goal is to try and have an agreement with all three entities [the Rays, Tampa, and Hillsborough County] by the end of the year. It’s extremely aggressive. However, having gone through the last several-year exercise, I appreciate the sense of urgency and the goal of trying to reach an agreement as quickly as possible,” said Hagan, who led the talks with the team for the proposed $892 million stadium in Ybor City before they broke down in December 2018….
Castor agreed, but said she hadn’t given up hope for keeping the Rays for the entire 162-game season.
“The focus was on the split season, but I don’t think the full season is off the table yet,” Castor said.
And Hagan added:
“I am still hopeful that we can go back to the original model and framework of an entire season in Ybor City,” said Hagan. “I take the Rays at their word. Right now we are only considering a split season concept.”
Whether this whole Tampontreal Ex-Rays plan is serious or a lavishly orchestrated bluff, you’ll note that it’s working out pretty well for Sternberg: He’s gone in just one year from even his own commissioner saying he was stuck playing in St. Petersburg to suddenly getting to hold stadium talks with cities in two nations. If it lands him a new stadium in Tampa, great; if it lands him a new stadium in Montreal but not one in Tampa, he can go to the public and MLB and say, “Hey, I tried with Tampa, they didn’t hold up their end of the deal, Quebec ho!”; if it lands him new stadium offers in both, he can either pick one or go ahead with his cockamamie scheme. And if lands him nothing, well, at least he’s no worse off than where he started.
Castor and Hagan said the goal is for a deal for a Tampa stadium to be in place by the end of the year, which is a meaningless deadline since it can be extended at any time, but does provide the three parties a nice way to turn up their crisis inducers. Castor noted that “the citizens’ appetite of paying for a stadium is about zero at this point,” which is a sticking point, but there are enough creative ways to fund a stadium without making it look like citizens are paying for it when they really are — tax breaks, tax increment financing districts, free land deals, “infrastructure” spending, hey-look-over-there-what’s-that — that you know they’ll come up with something to try.
Noah Pransky, you have anything to add?
Ayep. Throw another data point on the fire for “Stuart Sternberg, not so much crazy as crazy like a fox.”
“The #Rays were extremely transparent,” Hillsborough Commissioner Ken Hagan said after the meeting, without addressing how he expected the $600M(?) park to be funded. Hagan previously failed to find $$ in the 3yrs he spent trying to make a full-season Tampa location happen. https://t.co/P7YFyQUR4S
— Shadow of Stadium (@StadiumShadow) February 10, 2020