LAS VEGAS — Hillsborough County officials hoping Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred would help consummate the deal for a new Rays stadium appear to have struck out.
Manfred, in a strongly worded letter sent today, said the framework of the deal lacks specific details necessary for him to "understand the merits and feasibility" of the proposal as well as "the actual level of commitment" from the public side.
Further, Manfred addressed the looming deadline in the three-year window to let St. Petersburg officials know if they will find a new home in Tampa, writing he was "puzzled by the decision to inject me publicly in the process" with only weeks remaining.
Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg and presidents Brian Auld and Matt Silverman are in Las Vegas and are expected to address the proposal and Manfred's response at 1:30 p.m. ET Tuesday.
Irwin Raij, an attorney working on behalf of the Tampa Sports Authority, wrote to Manfred and Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg last week outlining their plan, which includes revenue from a projected 4 million square feet of development around the Ybor City site as part of the county's plan to build the $900 million stadium.
Manfred was clearly not impressed. In his response, he questioned the lack of specifics, and said he shared his "concern" with Sternberg, on multiple points including commitments for funding, financing, project cost, site certainty and timetable for consummating a deal and construction of the project.
Though Manfred said he would be "happy" to make himself available on the matter, he was somewhat dismissive "considering the lack of specifics included in your letter and the very short time frame that exists, I am not sure of what assistance I can be at this juncture."
Manfred reiterated in the letter his "support for the ballpark effort and my desire to be helping in assisting all parties in finding a way to keep the Rays in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area."
But he also wrote that he has encouraged Sternberg through the decade-long pursuit to "explore a path that is in the best interests of his Club and Major League Baseball."
Whether those are the same thing remains to be seen.
Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill said last they included Manfred in the process since he "has influence" on these type of deals and has to approve it. Though the deadline with St. Petersburg is Dec. 31 and an extension would have to be negotiated, Merrill said Tampa officials could keep talking with the Rays until late March.
Contact Marc Topkin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.