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St. Petersburg's Kriseman, Rays' Sternberg meet for 'great conversation'

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, left, and Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg, right, met Tuesday afternoon to talk baseball.

SCOTT KEELER, WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, left, and Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg, right, met Tuesday afternoon to talk baseball.

PORT CHARLOTTE — Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg and new St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman met Tuesday afternoon to talk baseball, their first official session since Kriseman took office.

"It was nice,'' Sternberg said Wednesday morning at the Rays spring training site. "We had a great conversation and I'm very confident in his ability and his vision in leading the city.''

Sternberg said it was a productive discussion, but general in nature, with "nothing at all" decided and few specifics about the stadium situation.

That eventually will evolve as the Rays are seeking permission from the city to look at potential new stadium sites in Tampa. But for now, Sternberg seems willing to be patient as Kriseman, who took office in January, settles into the role.

"Right now, I think, at my suggestion, he clearly has a lot to do — he's 40, 50 days in the door — this shouldn't be the first or second or fifth thing he focuses on," Sternberg said. "And it's such a large issue that he should be able to get a sense of who we are to the community and to the region and make some decisions based on that.''

The Times asked Kriseman's spokesman on Tuesday if the mayor had plans to meet with Sternberg in the next 24 hours. In a text message, Ben Kirby replied: "No, nothing on the calendar! Will let you know if that changes." The mayor's office later said Kirby did not know about the meeting.

On Wednesday, Kriseman's office issued a statement: "Mayor Kriseman and Rays leadership met on Tuesday to discuss the future of baseball in St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay area. Both parties agreed that such talks, based on mutual trust and respect, should remain private and not distract from what is sure to be another exciting season of Rays Baseball.''

Like previous Mayor Bill Foster before him, Kriseman has said he's interested in keeping the Rays in St. Petersburg. On Wednesday, Sternberg said he is willing to discuss anything.

"Everything is an option, absolutely,'' he said. "Our stance remains the same: that we'd like to explore opportunities that would enable the franchise to stay here for generations. And the way to get there is to find the best spot for the team and where it's going to be for the next 50 or 70 years.''

Sternberg had met with Kriseman in November, after he was elected but before he took office, so this was their second sitdown. Sternberg, who was heading back to his New York home Wednesday afternoon, did not say when they would meet again.

"We're a big part of the city, and I imagine he wants to get a sense of what they can do for us and I told him I'd like to be of service for the Rays organization to try to lift the city's fortunes as well,'' Sternberg said. "And things will move along.''

Mark Puente and John Romano contributed to this report.

St. Petersburg's Kriseman, Rays' Sternberg meet for 'great conversation' 02/19/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 9:17pm]
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