ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - Today, Rays owner Stu Sternberg announced that the Rays will consider any ball park in Tampa Bay. Sternberg told the press that the Rays will "rise above municipal boundaries to find an optimal site."
Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said today that the Rays will not play in Tropicana Field after the team's lease expires - in 2027. Now, Sternberg says that discussions of a new stadium will include the entire Bay area. He also said "baseball will not work in Downtown St. Petersburg."
Catch up on all the historical happenings in the Rays Stadium Saga
Top executives have been facing increasing pressure to open dialogue with the City of St. Petersburg. While the debate over the Rays' future home has picked up steam, the team hasn't given much indication over the past year of what it is looking for.
When Sternberg bought the Rays in 2004, the team was already locked into a "use agreement" with the City of St. Petersburg through 2027. But some experts believe if the team doesn't get a replacement for Tropicana Field - Major League Baseball's only remaining dome - it will break the contract.
Here's the official statement we received right after the press conference:
RAYS WANT TO EXPLORE ALL POTENTIAL NEW BALLPARK OPTIONS IN TAMPA BAY REGION
ST. PETERSBURG, FL-Following a meeting with St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said the team wants to explore all potential new ballpark options within Tampa Bay, including those outside St. Petersburg and Pinellas County.
"The future of Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay depends on finding the optimal site for a new ballpark," said Sternberg. "It is my conviction that if baseball is to survive and flourish in Tampa Bay for the long-term, we must rise above municipal boundaries and work together with a common interest."
Added Sternberg, "We will consider any potential ballpark site in Tampa Bay, but only as part of a process that considers every ballpark site in Tampa Bay."
Sternberg said he believes baseball can succeed in Tampa Bay and that he is committed to doing all he can to keep the team in the region.
"When I assumed control of the Rays almost five years ago, it was commonly assumed that winning would change everything at Tropicana Field. Everyone believed that with a winning team on the field, fans would fill the stands. That has not been the case."
Sternberg continued, "Our ability to compete and, quite frankly, to survive rests on our ability to attract people and businesses to our ballpark. Our customers are our fans. And like any other business, we need to be in a location that is convenient for our fans to reach us."
In discussing the Rays future, Sternberg confirmed that he wants the team to remain in Tampa Bay but for that to happen a regional discussion needs to begin soon.
"Baseball in the Tampa Bay area does not belong to Stu Sternberg, just as it doesn't belong to St. Petersburg or Tampa, Pinellas or Hillsborough. It is a regional asset. It belongs to our fans throughout the region. For this asset to be preserved, a comprehensive process to explore a new ballpark must begin. That process needs to consider all possible locations throughout Tampa Bay - meaning Tampa and Hillsborough as well."
Sternberg said being able to explore all possible stadium options to keep the team in Tampa Bay was "the right thing for our fans and for all the residents of Tampa Bay."
Until that discussion began in earnest, he continued, the team cannot and will not make a decision on a future ballpark in Tampa Bay and the air of uncertainty over the future of Major League Baseball in the area will continue to linger.
"The Rays are a valued member of our regional community, and that's exactly how we want things to remain," Sternberg said. "We appreciate all the support we have received from our loyal base of fans and supporters in both turning around this franchise and in trying to figure out how to keep it here in Tampa Bay."
Sternberg concluded, "The Rays organization stands ready to engage. We have an opportunity to secure the future of Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay. I look forward to working with you."
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Noah Pransky, 10 Connects