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Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg says empty seats won't affect push for playoffs

ST. PETERSBURG — With attendance and TV ratings down, and efforts for a new stadium stalemated, Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said he will focus for now on the field and his team's efforts to get back to the playoffs.

He said their attendance — 13th in the AL, 28th in the majors going into Saturday — "is what it is" and he was tired of talking about it (and figured people were tired of hearing about it). He said the reported MLB-high 37 percent decline in TV ratings was "not good" but wouldn't affect operations.

Sternberg sounded resigned to waiting out the stadium issue, currently being held up by a disagreement with St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, and perhaps a bit exasperated by the situation given the team's on-field success.

"We're not changing anything at this point," Sternberg said. "I've tried everything. People know it. We hear it all the time; we're winning on the field, we're putting a good product out there, the place is inviting, we've got concerts, we've got the second-most affordable team. There's not much else to be done at this point.

"It's baseball here. I believe in the game, I love the game. And just like (Lightning owner) Jeff Vinik loves hockey or the (Bucs-owning) Glazers might love football, you follow your passion and you put everything into it that you possibly can. And you'd like people and businesses and politicians to share your enjoyment and passion for it. Fortunately we've got a lot of people here who really support us and watch our games nightly and come out, and I'm genuinely grateful for everybody that follows the team. …

"There's no 2012 election, there's no new Congress coming in. This is what it is. It's been focused on and talked about. We need to have better resources somehow, and how it plays out eventually I don't know."

Sternberg also said he found the excessive speculation about incoming Astros ownership coveting executive vice president Andrew Friedman "very irresponsible" but wasn't concerned about losing his top baseball man.

"I don't think about that," he said. "Fortunately Andrew doesn't think about that either. (Team president) Matt (Silverman) doesn't think about it. He's got a great department, they work well together. And it's my job to make sure everybody is happy here and motivated and rewarded, and that comes in a lot of different ways. I couldn't be more pleased with how things are working."

Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg says empty seats won't affect push for playoffs 07/16/11 [Last modified: Saturday, July 16, 2011 11:02pm]
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