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In just five seasons, Stuart Sternberg, the owner of the Tampa Bay Rays, has done what many considered impossible, turning a perennial laughingstock into a team that has won more division titles in the last three years (2), than the Red Sox have won in the last 15 seasons (1).But even this miracle worker has been unable to get the Rays out of dismal Tropicana Field.
And based on his most recent comments, Sternberg made it clear that if the Rays don’t get a new stadium soon, Major League Baseball will find the Rays a new home and Sternberg will take his money elsewhere.
In a recent interview with Marc Topkin, Sternberg said if Major League Baseball has to get involved, they will “find a place for me,” and that the place won’t be in the Tampa-St. Pete area. He previously stated that if he were starting from scratch, that there are at least five markets that would be better for baseball than the Tampa-St. Pete area.
Meanwhile, MLB has already flirted with the idea of finding a way to pass control of the Mets to Sternberg, but are unwilling to contract the Rays.
The Rays are under contract to play in Tropicana Field through the 2027 season. Sternberg wants a new stadium away from the downtown St. Pete area, with many feeling he wants to move the team to Tampa and closer to the geographic centre of the fan base. He has even threatened to sell the Rays if Tampa and St. Pete can’t cooperate to find the Rays a new stadium.
However, the mayor of St. Pete will only let the Rays out of their contract if they stay in the St. Pete area.
Meanwhile, Bud Selig has instructed the Rays to not make “any significant financial investments” in the St. Pete area, suggesting that a move is imminent. What is not clear is if Selig wants to move the Rays to Tampa, or someplace much farther away.
None of this should come as much of a surprise. Quests for public money to pay for stadiums almost always starts with threats from the team. But it has been two years since the Rays dropped their original proposal for a waterfront stadium and the team is no closer to getting out of the Trop, one of the oldest stadiums in baseball that isn’t a national landmark.
This time, the threats should not be ignored. If the Rays can’t find a new stadium soon, baseball in Tampa-St. Pete may be over before it ever had a good shot to start.
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