Stu Sternberg to Tampa Bay business community: Rays need corporate support now
Rays owner Stu Sternberg didn't mince words at Tuesday's annual Rays luncheon sponsored by the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.
The Rays need the region's business community to step up and buy sponsorships, season tickets and otherwise show their support as the team decides where to build a new stadium.
After the event, Sternberg said, that hasn't happened yet. And he's running out of ideas, he said.
"The only thing to do, and I'm loathe to do, is to threaten, but you can't really threaten," Sternberg said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times after the luncheon. "There's nothing really at this point. It's got to be a value proposition, two-fold really: at the ballpark and sponsorships, but, most important, they believe having major-league baseball near where their business is located versus not having it anywhere near where their business is located is important."
Sternberg said he's talked to people in cities that have lost a major-league team---Montreal, Seattle and Milwaukee.
"Everyone one of them said, all of them said to a person ... they recognized it after the team was gone how important it was," Sternberg said. "So we're trying to stop this 'after the fact' thinking."
To the 300 or so gathered at the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park, Sternberg said the Rays have to make sure they have fertile ground before they plant the team's roots for the next half century.
"How many of you are making business decisions that will have ramifications 50 years down the road?" Sternberg asked.
Major League Baseball "had given up on Tampa Bay" during the long stalemate with the St. Petersburg City Council, the area's business community now needs to show MLB that it's serious about keeping a team in the region.
"That the support will be there, going in," Sternberg said to the crowd.
The event drew about one-third more people than last year's Rays luncheon.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman also said it's time for the business community to throw its support behind the team.
"If you're a corporation and you don''t have a suite and you don't have tickets, do it. If we're going to tell the team that we want them here in the Tampa Bay region, we have to show it," Kriseman said.
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