Advertisement
  1. Rays

New baseball commissioner optimistic about Rays stadium

Rob Manfred told the Tampa Bay Times that Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg remains optimistic something can be worked out somewhere in the Tampa Bay area, and he shares that view. [The New York Times]
Rob Manfred told the Tampa Bay Times that Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg remains optimistic something can be worked out somewhere in the Tampa Bay area, and he shares that view. [The New York Times]
Published Jan. 31, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — Though talks between the Rays and St. Petersburg officials on the stadium issue are again stalled — at least publicly — since the failed vote, new baseball commissioner Rob Manfred spoke encouragingly Friday about a new facility and the Tampa Bay market overall.

Manfred told the Tampa Bay Times that Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg remains optimistic something can be worked out somewhere in the Tampa Bay area, and he shares that view.

"I'm encouraged by his optimism," Manfred said from his New York office. "The most encouraging thing for your readers is that I know for a certainty that Stu's first choice is to stay in Tampa Bay."

While Manfred agreed with predecessor Bud Selig that the Rays "absolutely" need a new stadium to replace Tropicana Field, he spoke more optimistically — despite their sagging attendance — about the chances for success.

"I think with an appropriate facility that Tampa Bay can be a vibrant major-league market," Manfred said.

Informed of Manfred's comments, Sternberg said via email they are very much of similar view: "The new commissioner is in tune with my feelings and intentions. I stand behind his characterization."

Manfred further defused any speculation that the Rays may be headed elsewhere. He made clear that his recent comments about Montreal improving its appeal as a viable market to get a team back "had no specific relation" to the Tampa Bay situation (or any other current team).

He said, basically, that it's good for business "to have cities that want to have a team" and reiterated that MLB has a "long-term policy of trying to make this work in the communities that we're in. You know that we don't take clubs moving lightly."

There has been little public stadium discussion since the St. Petersburg City Council on Dec. 19 rejected a deal between the Rays and Mayor Rick Kriseman to allow the team to look at stadium sites in Tampa, an important step in the process.

The sides are expected to resume talks soon to resolve the issue over the redevelopment rights to the Trop land and try again for approval, though there is also talk among some council members over using a Feb. 19 workshop to discuss the possibility of a new stadium in St. Petersburg.

Kriseman said the redevelopment issue was not worked out in advance because it would require changing the current use agreement, but that the Rays were open to discussing what are known as the air rights if they were to leave before the 2027 end of their deal.

"The Rays were amenable to this in December, it's just unfortunate it didn't come out that way in the answer (from team president Brian Auld)," Kriseman told Times columnist John Romano. "They have known all along that we could address the air rights in any termination agreement."

Though Manfred considers stadium building "primarily a local undertaking," he said he would be willing to get involved, including coming down to meet with Kriseman or other officials, to whatever degree Sternberg requested.

Want more than just the box score?

Want more than just the box score?

Subscribe to our free Rays Report newsletter

Columnist John Romano will send the latest Rays insights and analysis to keep you updated weekly during the season.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

Manfred also said he had no specific timetable for progress on the issue outside of preferring sooner rather than later, and would defer to Sternberg on the appropriate location within the Tampa Bay area.

"My understanding from talking with Stu is that he's committed to try to make it work in Tampa Bay," Manfred said. "I think he's encouraged by what he's heard from the current mayor and he's optimistic something can be done."

Contact Marc Topkin at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

Advertisement

This site no longer supports your current browser. Please use a modern and up-to-date browser version for the best experience.

Chrome Firefox Safari Edge