St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said Wednesday he can’t negotiate a stadium deal with the Tampa Bay Rays while Stu Sternberg remains at the helm.
The mayor offered his comments during an appearance on the the JP Peterson Show on WWBA-AM 820 that was solely focused on the lawsuit filed by minority owners of the Rays against Sternberg last weekend. The suit alleges that Sternberg, the team’s majority owner and managing partner, has schemed to wrestle the team away from the other owners by changing the organization’s corporate ownership and pressuring them to sell their shares to him. The Rays have denied the allegations.
The suit requests a jury trial, damages, a comprehensive review of the team’s finances and for Sternberg to be removed as general partner.
“I think, given the allegations in this lawsuit … they are of such a nature that with him being the majority owner, the managing partner and the operator of the team and the one who we would be negotiating with, it makes it difficult, it really makes it untenable for me to be able to sit down and negotiate with him,” Kriseman said. “As long as he’s in that role, I can’t negotiate with him, because part of the complaint calls for him to be removed.”
The mayor said if he hammered out a deal with Sternberg, and then the owner was subsequently outted by a court, “Then I’ve got no deal.”
Kriseman echoed his Monday call for Sternberg to step down, if only temporarily, until the suit is resolved.
The Rays declined to comment.
The mayor’s comments throw the stadium negotiations into complete disarray. The Rays’ lease of Tropicana Field ends in 2027, and the team doesn’t yet have a new place to play. Negotiations between the team and city had stalled before the suit, but Kriseman told Peterson that he recently communicated with Rays president Brian Auld about restarting talks, after the city and Pinellas County finalize a contract with a consultant specializing in stadium deals.
Kriseman’s declaration could also have implications for the redevelopment of the 86-acre Trop site. City Council members last month said they won’t approve contracting with a developer for the site until the Rays have clarified if they wish to build a new stadium there. Despite that, Kriseman this week said he would soon narrow the four shortlisted site proposals to two finalists.
The top four mayoral candidates — City Council members Darden Rice and Robert Blackmon, former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, and former City Council member and state representative Wengay Newton — have all said these issues should be left to the next administration.