Rays’ Sternberg: ‘Things are moving along’ on Ybor stadium deal

The Tampa Bay Rays unveiled their new Tamp stadium on Tuesday. [Courtesy of Tampa Bay Rays]
The Tampa Bay Rays unveiled their new Tamp stadium on Tuesday. [Courtesy of Tampa Bay Rays]
Published Sep. 27, 2018|Updated Sep. 27, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said Thursday that "things are moving along" on the deal for a new Ybor City stadium, seeking funding for the $892 million project after a planned team contribution "well north" of the initial $150 million floated and working for resolution, one way or another by the Dec. 31 deadline.

"It's one foot in front of the other to get things done," Sternberg said before a 12-1 loss to the Yankees. "We're well aware that time is starting to tick a little bit louder. I'm thrilled with the commitment and desire of Chuck Sykes and Ron (Christaldi), especially, and the (Tampa Bay 2020) group they're working towards. It's amazing to me the amount of work these men and women are doing on our behalf and, most importantly, on the area's behalf, the region's behalf, to secure baseball for a long time. We're just continuing with the process."

After the team unveiled the fixed translucent roof design and hefty price in July, the focus has increased on how, and who, will pay for the 28,216-seat stadium they hope to open in 2023.

Sternberg said it's "going to be a combination obviously" of funding sources, with contributions from the team, corporate community and local governments.

"We're obviously talking to Hillsborough (County), we're talking to city of Tampa," Sternberg said. "We're trying to come up with solutions both obvious and creative, and out of the box, and in the box, and from the playbook and everything possible to try to give this thing the best chance of happening."

Sternberg has not said how much the team would contribute, or if that number is even known yet, except that it would be "well north" of the $150 million he first mentioned last November. After the July announcement he said it likely would not be double that, but that could change.

Sternberg said the talks between the team, business and governmental leaders should not be portrayed as "a negotiation.''

\More, he said, as "a group of people, I know on our side, that really want to get this done, there are people in Hillsborough and Tampa that really want to get this done, and we'll see what the commitment is and how much people are willing to do to try to have this happen. The corporate support is going to be paramount to all of this and that is still a work in progress as well."

The talks are being conducted with a looming Dec. 31 deadline for the team to notify St. Petersburg officials if they will proceed with a pre-negotiated deal to leave Tropicana Field before the 2027 end of their original 30-year agreement.

Though a completed deal might not be required, the Rays would obviously have to feel confident one was close, or that it wasn't going to work.

Another option could be to go back to St. Petersburg officials to ask to negotiate an extension, but Sternberg sounded Thursday like he wanted resolution one way or another in the decades-long quest for a new home.

"I'm not thinking about this as an extension, I'm thinking that we need to get something done," he said. "Not to the point of, oh, we don't have a deadline we're not getting it done.

"There's a third party in this in this and the third party has been incredibly open and helpful and recognizing that they think baseball in the areas is better than no baseball at all and I'm not going to suppose or go hat in hand and try to figure out what's right or wrong for them after this deadline goes by."

In simpler terms:

"It's up to us and it's up to Hillsborough and Tampa to figure this thing out," he said. "It's been a long time."

Contact Marc Topkin at Follow @TBTimes_Rays.