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Sternberg calls deal fair, says with no new stadium team likely to be sold, moved



Having finally reached what he considers a fair agreement with St. Petersburg to look for stadium sites in Tampa, Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg restated his confidence in the Tampa Bay area as a strong market for Major League Baseball.

But he also said that if the agreement is not approved and there is no deal in place within the next few years for a new stadium to be built, he likely will sell the team and would expect it to be moved out of the Tampa Bay area when the Trop lease runs out in 2027.

"I'm not leaving. I'm not moving this team. I'm not taking this team out of the area. But that's me,'' Sternberg said at baseball's winter meetings in San Diego. "The chances of me owning this team in 2023 if we don't have a new stadium are probably nil. Somebody else will take it and move it. It's not a threat, just the reality. I won't be sitting here 10 years from now waiting it out to move the team.''

While acknowledging approval by the St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday remains "a big hurdle," Sternberg said he believes that approval can lead to success in the market.

"I think baseball can still flourish down here and I'm looking for the oppotunity to make that happen,'' Sternberg said. "We need to get the building and the location pinpoint perfect for that to happen.''

Sternberg said the terms of the agreement reached with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman are pretty much final - "This is it" - and he wouldn't think there is room for anything more than minot changes to terms he described as "just painful enough all around but mostly overly fair and the right thing for the citizens of St. Petersburg.''

More from Sternberg:

(Said he didn't have a gut feeling on the vote): "It's not our area to try to figure out how people are going to view this and vote. In the past with different Councils, some of the same members but different Councils, things get a little funky at times. But I'm certain and I feel confident that I know each of the people on the Council individually have the best interest of the citizens of St. Petersburg at heart and as a baseball guy I belive that having baseball in their midsts, in the citizens of St. Petersburg's midsts, for generations to come, and the city getting its land to use, a lot of acreage to really develop and help the city take off, and, look, it still remains very possible that we still can be in St. Petersburg.''

(On terms of the deal being pretty much final):  "This is it. It's a natural thought you do a deal and you argue all the points over it and when it's done everbody always wants to weigh in and try to get more leverage. ... The Council members will have the opportunity to see the deal in its fullest form, it's not overly complicated, but from my vantage point I think it's just painful enough all around but mostly overall fair and the right thing for the citizens of St. Petersburg. But it's not for me to say.''

(On what if it fails Thursday?) "I don't know. There's nothing for me to do at that point. I can't even speculate. People are going to walk in and negotiate again? Re-, re-, re-, re-negotiate. It depends what I guess comes out of it. If it does (fail) I would like to think people have a reason for not voting for it. And if they do I don't know what we can do at that point to satisfy that. We're full at this point. This is it. I don't see us changing this  much more than a minor way, if at all.''

(And if it failed, what would you do, seek to get out of lease, move. etc.?) "I dont think so. Unfortunately, it's tough to speculate, but I think we would go back to where we were in 2010, '11, '12, '13, '14, and it'll be 2015. I don't see why it's in the best interests of everybody involved that we don't have this opportunity to look, but obviously I have a bit of a selfish input on that. The earlier, even if we start looking and we get financing and we have to build a place wherever it happens to be, we're in our building for at least the next 4-5 years I would guess. I can't see not. And the lease has 12 years left. It's not like we have 30 years on lease and we're only going to be there for two more.

"So if it doesn't pass we're doomed to leave. The difference now is we get the opportunity to leave, but stay. As opposed to leave and, whoever it is, and leave. Unless something else changes. As time goes by there is way less value for us and less opportnity for us to give more value up for it, to leave. If this takes another six years we're there until 2027 regardless so it's not like we have 12 years left. we have bascially have 5-6 years left and we've already been at this for 7 years so we shall see.''







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[Last modified: Tuesday, December 9, 2014 2:47pm]


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