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Sternberg Remains Optimistic About Baseball In Tampa Bay

Rays Principal Owner Stu Sternberg and President Brian Auld held an impromptu press conference at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas to respond to Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred’s letter regarding the shortfalls in the Rays Ybor City Stadium Proposal.

Sternberg cited multiple reasons, mostly in agreement with Manfred, on why the Ybor City Stadium proposal will not be moving forward.  As always, Sternberg did maintain that he hopes to keep the Rays in the Tampa Bay area and believes the team can thrive in the market.

Sternberg’s Opening Statement:

In December of 2015 we collaborated with the City of St. Petersburg on an agreement to allow us to explore ballpark sites throughout the Tampa Bay Region. The agreement provided a generous three year window. It was a very important step in our long standing pursuit for a new home for the Rays, something we’ve been trying to do for over ten years, since I took over the team in 2005. It was really one of the main initiatives from the beginning.

Unfortunately, that window is closing without us achieving that goal. While the momentum and progress agreed on we are not close at all to a workable framework.

As commissioner Manfred noted in his response to Hillsborough County, fundamental issues have yet to be adequately addressed. These include among other things site control, political approvals, private investment commitments, cost and timing, and timing certainty.

We spent thousands of hours and many millions of dollars to make our vision of an Ybor ballpark a reality. A ballpark that would bring the excitement of major league baseball and stimulate an energetic and engaged community in Ybor City and the surrounding area.

The result certainly wasn’t due to a lack of effort from the parties involved and while I am wildly disappointed by the result, I am not discouraged. Government officials as well as business and community leaders across Tampa Bay came together on this.

Particularly, Chuck Sykes, Ron [Christaldi] and their 20/20 coalition. I want to thank everyone who’s been a part of this project, especially the Ybor community who welcomed us with open arms. I also want to thank our partners in St. Petersburg and Pinellas County – particularly Mayor Rick Kriseman for their support as we consider locations these last three years across Tampa Bay.

I’m firmly committed to helping the Rays remain and thrive in Tampa Bay for decades and generations to come.

Major league baseball is a large part of what defines Tampa Bay as a major league region. I continue to be enthusiastic about finding a way forward.

This is not the announcement I expected to make. It’s a very promising time for our franchise. I believe the Rays fans and supporters are very proud of their team and organization who are fresh off a 90-win season – a quite improbable 90-win season as many of you might have expected before next year.

I am extraordinarily excited about the start of the 2019 season and very optimistic for what the years ahead will bring.

What we try to do is make magic with Rays baseball and engage the community and we’ll continue to do that on a day to day basis.

What’s Next?:

The Ybor City location phase seems over, although Sternberg wouldn’t say the applicable term is ‘dead’. Rather, he prefers to say that the Ray are going to put every option available on the table going forward. This will only include sites outside of Pinella’s County if certain things happen. The Memo of Understanding (MOU) allowing the Rays to look at sites outside of Pinellas County expires on December 31st and would have to be extended or amended.

Still Committed To Area?:

Sternberg said that the Rays are still going to continue to look in the Tampa Bay area and we’re going to put all our efforts toward that. Saying, “One way or another we need to figure out where the team is going to be in 2028 if not sooner. Ideally sooner, but absolutely by 2028.”

He continued that St. Petersburg needs to move on with their development plans as well. “We can be sitting here in a few years and you ask, ‘why don’t you ask St. Pete for an extension for another year?’ They have to get on with their lives as well. Ideally,they’ll be baseball in Tampa Bay. There is 80 acres that we’re sitting on. The area has been bustling and moving along nicely. The mayor and the city council have created a wonderful area and they’ve been supportive of the mayor and we’re really proud to call it our home, but by the same token I would imagine that they’d want to start to figure out what development rights they need to do with their 80 acres. Right now we need them to support our parking and other things that we need to do for baseball.”