The Devil Rays eventually will need a new stadium to replace Tropicana Field.
But they're not expecting one anytime soon.
Principal owner Stuart Sternberg on Tuesday clarified comments in a New York Times story, saying there is no deadline for a new ballpark and he will stick to his promise to never demand one. But he also said he doesn't think the Trop, which opened in 1990, can be the team's home for the remaining 20 years on its lease.
"I know we have to be here at least five years and I know we can't be here for 20,'' Sternberg said. "It does not have a shelf life of 20. ... Now that we've been in here a little bit longer and done all the improvements, we can really see the issues structurally within the building. It's not an option that it will last another 15 or 20 years.''
Sternberg and his group have invested about $18-million in stadium related upgrades over the last two years with the idea the team would be at the Trop for awhile. "We didn't do that to amortize it over a five-year period,'' he said.
Sternberg said the idea of a new stadium is not a priority issue, but more something he and his top officials talk about on occasion. With the recent - and thus far unsuccessful - efforts to get state funding for a new south Florida stadium for the Marlins, as well as the renovations to the Rays' new spring training home in Port Charlotte, he acknowledged that the subject has been more topical.
"We'll focus on it more as time goes by,'' Sternberg said. "Something of this magnitude, it really isn't anything I've spent a lot of time on. I have thought about it. Nothing can be done overnight. It's in the background. We know it's there. We chat about it - how and what.''
When Sternberg took over the team in October 2005 he pledged he would never demand a new stadium, and Tuesday he reiterated that promise. "Absolutely,'' he said. "I was extra clear a year and a half ago, and nothing has changed.''
He did say Tuesday that he might initiate the conversation, but that any effort would have to have the support of the Tampa Bay area and the state.
"I might present ideas to other people but it's in conjunction with the region,'' he said. "Given the scope of the project it's got to make economic sense and it's got to make civic sense. If we do our job right as an organization (in improving the franchise), I would expect that it would make it that much easier and that much clearer that it would be the right thing for the municipalities and the Devil Rays.''
The Rays are in their 10th season at the downtown St. Petersburg stadium.