Selig: Need for new Rays stadum is 'obvious,' progress possible
UPDATE, 5:49: Sternberg told the Times there is reason for optimism.
"Bud is aware of my optimisim which has come out of the chats with (St. Petersburg) Mayor
Rick Kriseman,'' Sternberg wrote in an email. "I continue to believe that the civic, business and political leaders in the city as well as the region will do their best to ensure that Rays
baseball is here for generations to come.''
DEVELOPING: Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig expressed some faith in the Tampa Bay market on Tuesday but reiterated the Rays' need for a new stadium and repeatedly the issue in in principal owner Stuart Sternberg's hands.
Selig, taking questions from members of the Baseball Writers Association prior to the All-Star Game, also suggested there could be a breakthrough before he leaves office in January.
"It's obvious they need a new stadium,'' Selig said. "It's no secret. There's no sense in getting - all you have to do is look at the daily attendance figures, the attendance figure to date this year, Marc, and you can see what they need.''
Despite MLB-worst attendance - an average of 16,902 that is barely half of the MLB average (30,028), Selig said, "The demographics in the market are good, I have no question about that.''
Asked later is that meant he felt that baseball can work in the market, he told the Tampa Bay Times, "I'm sure it can, but talk to Stu Sternberg.''
Selig is set to retire in January, and the Rays' stadium issue appears to be one of the major issues that will go unresolved.
But not necessarily, Selig said, hinting - though without providing any details - there may be progress in the team's discussions with St. Petersburg officials to gain permission to explore sites in other parts of the Tampa Bay area. The lease at Tropicana Field runs through 2027.
"I have a lot of faith in Stu Sternberg,'' Selig said. "He's very smart and he knows what he has to do there. He's talking to a lot of people and he keeps me briefed on exactly what's going on. Look, there are some problems that take longer to solve than others. But I do have a lot of faith in him and that organization and they'll hopefully, before I leave office, there'll be a conversation on all of this.''
Selig said he had an opinion on whether the team would be better off seeking a new stadium in Tampa, but would not share. "That's a local club's decision, (Sternberg) knows the market,'' Selig said. "I know Stu's talking to a lot of people. You have to talk to him. I never want to - he's doing what he can.''
In response to another question, Selig spoke highly of the Montreal market as an "excellent candidate" to get a team back in the future.
Two spring exhibitions that drew around 95,000 fans have drawn attention to Montreal's efforts to regain a team.
Selig said MLB noticed.
"It did make a big impression,'' he said. "I was impressed. I've talked to a lot of people there. They have much work to do but that was very, very impressive. No question in my mind. We certainly in my case have no hard or angry feelings toward Montreal at all. They tried to keep the team there; it's a long story. I think (the exhibitions were) marvelous. But they do have a lot of work to do. I wish them well. And I think they would be an excellent candidate in the future, no question about it. That was very, very impressive.''
Selig would not address questions about the potential of the Rays, or any other team, eventually seeking permission to relocate to Montreal.
Selig instead said, again, that the stadium issue was being handled by Sternberg, who has said he plans to keep the team in Tampa Bay.
"Stu Sternberg is working hard on that, and that should be his problem,'' Selig said. "I'm here to help him and he knows that. But it's a judgment call he has to make.''