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Stuart Sternberg claims that MLB “no longer believes in the Tampa Bay area”

Jan 24, 2013, 3:04 PM EDT

Texas Rangers v Tampa Bay Rays - Game 3

Rays owner Stuart Sternberg is trying to get a new ballpark, but he’s got almost no leverage to do so. He’s locked in an iron-clad lease with St. Petersburg, keeping the Rays in Tropicana Field. The city is willing to at least entertain the idea of another ballpark someplace else in St. Pete, but Sternberg is prohibited from exploring moving the team across the bridge to Tampa.

So what can he do? Offer vague and ominous threats, mostly. He went before the Hillsborough County Commission, and said this about the current prospects of the Rays:

Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said Thursday that he wants to keep his team in the region, but “Major League Baseball at this point no longer believes in the Tampa Bay area.”

The nature of the league’s lack of faith in the region was lest unspecific, but he hinted that contraction of the Rays, while not necessarily a priority of the league, is “an option.” This is nothing new for Sternberg, of course, as he has said in the past that he thinks the league will “vaporize” the Rays.

In reality, no, it’s not an option at all. Indeed, as we’ve noted several times here, it’s basically fantasyland stuff, inasmuch as contracting a team would cost Major League Baseball and its owners something on the order of a billion dollars, plus lawsuits and the risk of government meddling in the league’s business. They’d do it if the game was in some existential crisis, but it’s not. One owner has a bad lease and is scraping by.  That’s a small problem, all things considered, not one which will ever inspire the league to wade into the muck of contraction.

I feel from Sternberg because, yes, his and the Rays’ situation is awful for them.  But it’s one that is simply going to require some creativity and maybe some guts (and the defense of a lawsuit from St. Petersburg), not the nuclear option of contraction.

  1. tampajoey - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:08 PM

    The mayor of St Pete Bill Foster is an A$$hole.

    • dcfan4life - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:57 PM

      I disagree. The Rays fans are the problem. One of the lowest attendance in baseball, one of the lowest tv ratings in baseball, and this for a winning team. So why would a mayor or city council move public funds towards a new stadium when its clear the average taxpayer doesnt care? Especially when the team cant move and has no advantages.

      • bh0673 - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:16 PM

        Talking to season ticket holder down there the fan base isn’t as bad as you would think and the location does play into the lack of attendance.

      • tampajoey - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:25 PM

        You obviously don’t understand this issue so your opinion is irrelevant.

      • dcfan4life - Jan 24, 2013 at 8:56 PM

        Dead last in attendance last year among all MLB clubs at 19,255 people per game. That means more people went to see the God awful Astros over the Rays. That says something right there, regardless of location. New Yorkers go to the meadowlands, Redksins fans go to landover, Rangers fans go to Arlington, Packers fans come from all over to go to Green Bay. Location is a terrible excuse as to not to go see a good team play a great game. If that improves to middle of the pact, i bet a new stadium becomes way more likely.

      • bh0673 - Jan 25, 2013 at 7:25 AM

        dcfan4life unless you have been there yourself, YOU HAVE NO CLUE!!!!!
        I have been there and I have to admit as much as I love baseball that trip in would make me think twice. What you fail to understand is places like the Meadowlands (which is football), Arlington Texas, DC, New York, Philly Baltimore you have several ways in from Tampa to St Pete all you have are very long bridges. Even going to Yankee games there have been a few times I screwed up and ended up sitting on the George Washington Bridge for hours but that is not the norm. If it was and that was the only way in I would not go to Yankees games as often.

      • troy10 - Jan 25, 2013 at 11:58 AM

        DCFAN4LIFE

        You mention Green Bay fans, Redskins fans and New Yorkers.. but those are all football games. That are ONCE a week. And sometimes not even that if their team is playing an away game.
        We’re talking baseball.. where you can have a game EVERYDAY for 10 consecutive games.
        I just don’t see how you can compare 8 home football games to 81 home baseball games.

    • Rockie D. Bull - Jan 25, 2013 at 9:29 AM

      There is nothing wrong with the Trop, location or otherwise. As long as those twin dumps stand in Boston and Chicago, there will never be anything wrong with the Trop; not to mention – there has NEVER been a rain out there since the Rays took up residence.

      Now that the south Florida experiment with the new “Blow Hole” has not worked out, all Uncle Bud accomplished with that disaster was to forever poison the stadium building waters with tax payer money. Stu can bluster and complain all he wants about the deal he has at the Trop but the bottom line is – if it was such a bad deal/stadium – why not buy the Mets instead?

      Thanks to former ownership, the Rays also have one of worst TV deals in all of baseball that can only be relieved by moving to a new stadium. Piss poor management in the early years of the franchise and non-existent marketing today are both great contributors to the lack of attendance. The idiot owner has publicly dogged the fans in the press for not going to the games yet he attends more Met games than Ray games.

      The biggest problem with attendance at the Trop is all those Buc and Lightening fans from Tampa that are not willing to cross the same bridges that Pinellas county residents have crossed for years in the other direction to see those teams play.

  2. Chris Fiorentino - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:12 PM

    At first, I was thinking how in the world did Sternberg let himself get into an iron-clad lease with that POS stadium? Then I see that the stadium was built in 1996 so it’s only 16 years old and the lease is a very fair 30 year old lease. Sternberg is simply going to have to be patient and wait until 2026 because from what I have read, the lease is pretty ironclad. Sell the team if you don’t like it.

    • Detroit Michael - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:29 PM

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropicana_Field

      The stadium was built in 1986-90 and then was renovated shortly before the Devil Rays started playing there in 1998.

      Of course, the real problem is not the structure itself but the location, from what I’ve read.

      In any case, the lease was known to Sternberg when he bought the team, and issuing empty threads only alienates the fan base.

      • gallaghedj311 - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:36 PM

        what fanbase?

      • bh0673 - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:03 PM

        I have been there and yes the location does stink, as one season ticket holder told me the fans live in Tampa and as I found out the traffic over the causeway from Tampa to St. Pete makes the trip over the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey to the Bronx a dream (for those who know the GWB imagine 4 miles of bridge traffic). I left with plenty of reasonable time to get there and still missed the first inning and the locals told me that is the norm. Secondly the place is dingy inside and not exactly a nice venue to watch a ball game. I am glad I got to go there and see a game but I if do understand why the fans stay home. Great Team lousy venue.

  3. philsieg - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:15 PM

    So that makes Bud a Tampatheist?

  4. ezthinking - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:19 PM

    When Sternberg bought into the team, he knew about the shitty lease and still put up his dough/credit.

    So why is he complaining again?

    • bh0673 - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:26 PM

      I think when he bought the club he figured if he invested in the team the fans would come out but by 2009 with a $60 million payroll the fans still didn’t cross over the bay he realized the problem was location. Remember when he bought the club they were a last place non contending team.

    • vanmorrissey - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:39 PM

      Exactly. He doesn’t like it then sell the team and get out of the business, period.

      • bh0673 - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:45 PM

        I agree or MLB should consider moving it to another city, it did work for the Expos since they moved to Washington. Maybe Florida can’t support two teams viably. I would like to think the fans do care but maybe from a finacial standpoint it doesn’t work down there.

  5. professor30 - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:24 PM

    Joe Maddon says that Bud and MLB has it in for the Rays.

    • bh0673 - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:53 PM

      Maybe Bud does but how would contraction play out after moving Houston to the American League to even up both leagues, why would you get rid of a franchiise and be back in the same spot you were just in. I have to believe moving the team would be MLB’s only option other then leaving them there to flounder.

  6. rollteal - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:25 PM

    I thought the stadium is older then just I could have sworn it was built up around 1990. But it’s really Drab for a MLB game. They really need a outdoor stadium. Before they think about contraction they need to move it up here to northeast FL.

    • thebadguyswon - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:20 PM

      It reminds me of Olympic Stadium. A drab mausoleum.

      • Rockie D. Bull - Jan 25, 2013 at 9:35 AM

        There are 2 dumps in MLB – they are in Boston and Chicago, there will never be anything wrong with the Trop as long as those places still stand; not to mention – there has NEVER been a rain out there since the Rays took up residence.

  7. flosox - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:27 PM

    They’re trying to build Rome in a day…

    It took generations for alot of these teams to have the fanbase they have now. If it means you have to lease a crappy stadium for 30 years while building your franchsie, so be it! Shut the Eff up, keep working hard, put out a winning team, save your nickels and when your lease is up you can build a real ballpark.

    That’s the problem with today’s mentality; I WANT EVERYTHING NOW. Our attention spans are that of goldfish.

    • bh0673 - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:08 PM

      I talked to a lot of people there when I went and they all said if the team moved to Tampa the fans would be there. The traffic over the causeway to St. Petersburg keeps a lot of them home.

      • Rockie D. Bull - Jan 25, 2013 at 9:44 AM

        The only “causeway” heading into Pinellas county is the Courtney Campbell. Anyone taking that to the game is going way out of their way – the main arteries feeding the Trop are the Howard-Franklin bridge (4 lanes into Pinellas/St Pete), the Gandy bridge (2 lanes into Pinellas/St Pete) and the Skyway bridge (2 lanes heading into Pinellas/St Pete).

        If I am going the other direction to Jesse James stadium (Bucs) or to whatever the hockey arena is named this week – the traffic issues are the same if not worse going to Tampa, especially on a week night. Moving the baseball stadium to Tampa will, in my opinion, increase the traffic issue getting to a game before the first inning.

        And say by some miracle a new stadium gets built – how long until the luster wears off like it did with the Blow Hole in Miami that is less than a year old and the fans still won’t turn out?

  8. mnjoemama - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:29 PM

    It’s so simple and easy …. Carolina Rays !!!

  9. dondada10 - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    How about sprucing up the Trop? If you’re stuck there, give it a facelift. Figure out a way to get rid of the catwalks. Hell, rip the dome off and insert a retractable one. Grow some beautiful Floridian grass in that bitch.

    • teamobijuan - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:33 PM

      I lost it at the last sentence.

  10. misterchainbluelightning - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:34 PM

    Expos of the South, bad stadium and bad location of the stadium

    • missthemexpos - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:57 PM

      Good points, all you need for the trifecta of bad karma is to have your team owned by Jeffrey Loria.

      • misterchainbluelightning - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:36 PM

        That or high taxes and a weak Floridian dollar

  11. kicksave1980 - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:48 PM

    The Tampa Bay Lightning also played in that stadium in the early 90’s while waiting for their permanent arena to be built. I remember watching Lightning games on TV back then (don’t live near Florida), but imagine watching a hockey game live in that cave.

    • Rockie D. Bull - Jan 25, 2013 at 9:50 AM

      I had season tickets for 3 years when the Lightening played at the Trop (Thunderdome then) and loved every minute of it. They averaged 19,000 a game and set the hockey indoor playoff attendance record. Then they moved to a new arena in an area that is hard to get to and that place won’t hold 19,000, plus the team sucked so bad they couldn’t give the seats away until the Stanley Cup in 2003.

      There was nothing wrong with the Trop when the Lightening played there and there still isn’t now that the Rays are in residence.

      • kicksave1980 - Jan 30, 2013 at 3:22 AM

        I wasn’t saying there’s anything wrong with it, I’m just saying that it must’ve been weird to go to a hockey game in such a venue.

  12. sbmcintosh36 - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:50 PM

    The stadium isn’t the worst it’s the in the worst location possible i went up twice from Palm Beach and sat in traffic for nearly 2 hours within a few miles of the stadium going in and out i would never go again

    • zacksdad - Jan 24, 2013 at 8:23 PM

      Wow, how many sentences is that? Hard to read your statement(s).

    • Rockie D. Bull - Jan 25, 2013 at 9:54 AM

      You should have gone to the Blow Hole in Miami instead. Then when you finally got there, you could have turned around and gone back home because there is no where to park.

      Try Google maps if you ever come back to a game, there are plenty of ways to get to the stadium from 2 miles away that don’t involve sitting in traffic for 2 hours.

  13. kelshannon19 - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:58 PM

    So he is thinking about moving the Tampa Bay Rays to Tampa Bay? Sounds reasonable…

    • bh0673 - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:18 PM

      That would be reasonable

    • indaburg - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:48 PM

      No, because Tampa Bay is actually a body of water. The city is simply called Tampa. The Tampa Bay region is comprised of three primary cities surrounding the bay, namelt the cities of Tampa, Clearwater, and St. Petersburg.

      • umrguy42 - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:53 PM

        Hmm. We need to build a floating ballpark! In the bay! Think of the novelty!

      • indaburg - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:16 PM

        lol a floating ballpark? Genius.

      • historiophiliac - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:01 PM

        I’d come visit that. I like taking the ferry in Pittsburgh. Even better, make it a cruiser so we gamble…oh, wait, NOT on the game.

      • bh0673 - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:46 PM

        I knew what he meant even if his Geography was off

      • indaburg - Jan 24, 2013 at 8:44 PM

        The team isn’t the Tampa Rays. They’re the Tampa Bay Rays. What he said made no sense because his geography was off.

      • jashton11 - Jan 24, 2013 at 10:31 PM

        Don’t laugh too hard at the floating ballpark idea. Seattle thought it might work back in the ’60s.

        Proposed floating stadium, 1963

      • historiophiliac - Jan 24, 2013 at 10:56 PM

        Maybe the Cards could do a riverboat ballpark…

  14. dowhatifeellike - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:22 PM

    If traffic is the problem, build another bridge. The increased attendance and a small entertainment tax hike will cover it.

    • bh0673 - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:28 PM

      That is the new bridge they old one it replaced was hit by a boat and collapsed killing 30 some people.

    • indaburg - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:12 PM

      There are three bridges spanning the bay–the Howard Franklin, the Courtney Campbell, and the Gandy. It’s not the number of bridges. It’s the length the bridges span.

      • Rockie D. Bull - Jan 25, 2013 at 9:57 AM

        Its folks in Hillsborough county not wanting to cross a bridge to watch baseball that is the problem. You forgot the Skyway bridge and anyone taking the Courtney Campbell is asking to sit in traffic for a very long time.

  15. Ben - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:57 PM

    Anyone know what the actual cost per year is on the lease? They could just accept the lease as the stadium equivalent of Vernon Wells’ contract and eat the cost, or arrange a buyout with the city. Both would run in the hundreds of millions probably, but that’s cheaper than the billion and fighting it would cost to contract the Rays.

    • Ben - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:33 PM

      Ahh, nevermind, I see now there’s an exclusivity clause. Even if they paid the lease, they’d have to get permission to play somewhere else.

  16. thebadguyswon - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:18 PM

    I’d relocate if I was him too. Ten years from now, there won’t be a team in Florida.

  17. coolblues56 - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:20 PM

    I lived in North Tampa and commuted to work in St.Pete for about 6 months and quit the jobs because it was such a horrible commute. So, getting baseball fans from Tampa to go over bridges to St. Pete to watch a game is ludicrous.

    This guy bought into a shitty deal and now he’s crying. Sorry Charlie :(

    • bh0673 - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:38 PM

      I still think the difference everyone forgets is the guy did take a shot he invested in the team did increase payroll from what it was and made an effort to lure fans to a game. I will give him a pass he wasn’t a sc*mbag like Jeff Loria who invested in the team to get a new stadium and then fire sale’d everyone off.He took a shot made an effort and it didn’t work out.

  18. bh0673 - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:33 PM

    Unless you have been there you can’t really understand, I used to wonder why the fans didn’t come out it isn’t a bad team anymore. Since I have been there I now understand. 4 miles of bumper to bumper traffic over a bridge with no easier alternative it would deter me from going on a regular basis. I am a season ticket holder to the Yankees, I live 60 miles from the stadium and have to cross one of the busiest bridges in the country to get there and still attend at least 20 to 25 games a year. The difference is if the bridge is backed up, I know 4 alternate ways to get to the bridge and if the bridge itself is stopped dead I can change plans and take a train to Penn Station and then a subway up, or drive into midtown Manhattan, park at the Port Authority and take a subway up I have alternatives and as I drive up to a Yankee game I listen to traffic reports to determine which way I am going to go. Having been to Tropicana Field and sat in that traffic I can relate. If I had only one way into New York for a game and never knew if I was going to sit in traffic or not I might not go to Yankee Stadium as often either.

  19. dcrudy - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:37 PM

    The Yankees draw 10,000+ per game for friggin spring training games in Tampa.

    • bh0673 - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:38 PM

      And where is George M Steinbrenner Field, that’s right it is in Tampa.

  20. brianabbe - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:54 PM

    Unless they have a second team (Oakland), there is zero chance for contraction. If the A’s figure out their stadium mess (All bets are off there), you can bet that kills any idea of contraction, because every other team in the majors has at least a halfway viable stadium situation. The game has changed since the idea was proposed over a decade ago. I highly doubt the owners want to lose money to get rid of two teams, TV contracts, 324 games. Not to mention, I’m sure the players are all in favor of getting rid of at least 50 union jobs. Plan on relocation as the best case scenario.

    • bh0673 - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:19 PM

      I have been there too, 1991 watched Giambi hit a walk off home run off Mike Stanton to beat the Yankees pissed off the Oakland fan sitting next to me when I looked at his gloating face and said “enjoy it Giambi will be in pinstripes next year” of course after Giambi’s tenure in New York don’t know who made out on that one. The Oakland Colosseum or whatever it is call now is also a dingy dump.

  21. caeser12 - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:26 PM

    There’s one in Miami that could use a good baseball team. You may have to do some renovations (center field), but other than that, it’s not being used.

  22. American of African Descent - Jan 24, 2013 at 7:17 PM

    I don’t know the area at all. But is it possible to do a high speed ferry across the bay? Fans can park at a ferry slip, get to the stadium timely, and not have to deal with traffic across the bridge. Anyone here think that would be a good idea?

    • indaburg - Jan 24, 2013 at 10:50 PM

      I’ve lived in the Tampa Bay area for more than a decade and I don’t think it’s a terrible idea. It would be a lovely ride and far more pleasant than being stuck in traffic. A couple of years ago, I heard some murmurings of a possible ferry between Tampa and St. Pete but I have no idea what became of the idea. I know it’s a long distance to span. I don’t know if there are environmental considerations.

  23. canadabaseball - Jan 24, 2013 at 8:23 PM

    If they were to move where would they move to?

    • indaburg - Jan 24, 2013 at 10:41 PM

      Montreal?

      • historiophiliac - Jan 24, 2013 at 10:58 PM

        the Snow Rays?

  24. themagicfanguy - Jan 24, 2013 at 11:11 PM

    The stadium isn’t the problem, its the location. Nobody from the Orlando/Kissimmee area wants to travel there because of how much of a pain in the neck it is. They’d double their crowd if the Trop was on the other side of town.

  25. chuckleberry1974 - Jan 26, 2013 at 4:26 PM

    I think there are too many teams in Florida if you consider all pro sports. Maybe too many options?

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