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Tampa Bay Rays' president Matt Silverman says of Tropicana Field 'something needs to be done'

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays president Matt Silverman said the stadium situation has become a distraction that now affects the team on the field and damages the reputation of the Tampa Bay area, and he made their loudest plea yet for action, saying, "Clearly, something needs to be done."

Silverman's comments, and similar ones earlier Tuesday from manager Joe Maddon, followed the latest wave of criticism of Tropicana Field after consecutive nationally televised games were marred by quirky stadium issues — a broken light on the catwalk Sunday, a bank of lights going out Monday — with ESPN analyst John Kruk leading the chorus.

Before Tuesday's game, Maddon said he agreed with Kruk, that the Trop was "improper" for major-league baseball, that it had "served its purpose" that and it was absolutely "time to move on."

Silverman went further in a statement during the game, saying, "It's hard to combat the national media's depiction of our stadium. Our situation has become a distraction. It is affecting the clubhouse, and it spills over onto the field of play. It damages the national reputation of St. Pete and Tampa Bay, and it harms the Rays brand."

Maddon said a new stadium needed a retractable roof and should be centrally located in the Tampa Bay area. He took a veiled shot at St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster for refusing to allow the team to consider sites outside the city and surrounding area, which has led to the current stalemate.

"I believe it's a regional asset; it's not a city asset," Maddon said. "When you start looking at it as 'mine' and not 'everybody's,' that's where things get skewed or not work out well."

Foster didn't seem to appreciate the input, telling the Times that Maddon "needs to concentrate on playing on the field." And he questioned Silverman's characterization that the stadium was a distraction.

"It didn't appear that the stadium interfered with Boston or New York's ability to win the ballgame (this past week), and it was that same stadium where the Rays were able to win the American League (East) championship the past two out of three years, so it obviously wasn't that big of a distraction," he said.

Foster also said he considers the team a regional asset that needs to be supported areawide, but his concern is to "protect the interests of the people who built the stadium" and indicated that with the Trop lease running through 2027, he wouldn't change his position on keeping the team within or adjacent to the city limits.

"They have 15 years left on their lease agreement … so, yeah, I'm holding on pretty tightly," Foster said. "If they want to look at sites within Pinellas County, I'm all for that."

Maddon was finishing his daily pregame media session when he was asked about the critical comments by Kruk.

"He's right. We do need a new ballpark. He's absolutely right. And he's right, this ballpark is improper for major-league baseball," Maddon said. "You shouldn't play with all these obstructions and all these caveats. Of course not. It's run its course. It was here for a moment. It served its purpose. And now it's time to move on. Absolutely it is. And to deny that, everybody has just got their head in the sand, period."

Maddon wouldn't say where he thought a new stadium should be built but made it clear it should be centrally located within the Tampa Bay area — "where the most people could come with the least amount of resistance."

But Foster's position is that the Rays can discuss sites only in St. Petersburg or the adjacent area.

"This is a great place to raise a family, and for me it's a great place to have a major-league team — the Tampa Bay area," Maddon said. "So looking down the road I would hope that people have enough foresight to construct the new ballpark in the right place that maintains us here for many years, and permits us to build this (organization) into what we can. It's already pretty darn good — we could make it even better with the right facilities."

While principal owner Stuart Sternberg said last week he would consider an open-air stadium — they had proposed one in 2008 with a sail-like cover — Maddon said a new stadium would need a retractable roof.

"To do otherwise would be economic suicide — it's uncomfortable, the rain, the disruptions with the games, the disruptions with your work," Maddon said. "All that stuff would be counter-productive. If you're going to do it, do it right. Do it right, man."

Foster said "any conversation dealing with the stadium" needs to occur between him and Sternberg.

Foster didn't dispute that the team was of value to the entire area.

"I agree it's a regional asset and it requires support from the entire region," Foster said. "As I said before, I am not the regional mayor. I am the mayor of the city of St. Petersburg and I will do whatever I can to protect the interests of the people who built the stadium.

"We absolutely need to work with the region. … I've always been one to look at the regional approach when it comes to attracting fans to Tropicana Field. But the region didn't build Tropicana Field. It was the people of Pinellas County who built Tropicana Field. So right now I am only concerned with their interests and protecting their investments."

Times staff writer Luis Perez contributed to this report.

Tampa Bay Rays' president Matt Silverman says of Tropicana Field 'something needs to be done' 07/19/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 20, 2011 6:56pm]
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