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Rays’ Stuart Sternberg on Bally TV issues, ticket sales, Trop upgrades

Tales | The team’s principal owner is confident games will be available for fans to watch despite the network’s bankruptcy filing and that attendance will increase.
 
Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg, right, speaks with St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch, left, prior to the season opener Thursday against the Detroit Tigers at Tropicana Field.
Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg, right, speaks with St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch, left, prior to the season opener Thursday against the Detroit Tigers at Tropicana Field. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published April 2, 2023|Updated April 2, 2023

ST. PETERSBURG — Principal owner Stuart Sternberg at Thursday’s opener offered hope, optimism and something of a deadline for a new stadium in either St. Petersburg or Tampa but no details on where things currently stand.

He was a bit more specific on other subjects.

TV coverage given the bankruptcy filing by the owner of Bally Sports:

Sternberg said fans still will be able to see Rays games on television even if the Diamond Sports filing takes down the Bally Sports Sun regional sports network. And, pending streaming options, it’s possible even more will be able to do so than through traditional cable.

“I absolutely believe that, first off, the games will be available,” he said. “Might there be a night or two that it misses? Anything’s possible. But that’s the first, second and third imperative for the owners of Major League Baseball to make sure our games are out there. The talk of money and who pays what is very much in the background for all of that.”

Sternberg also noted the current Bally streaming option. He declined to comment on whether Bally/Diamond was up-to-date in its payments to the team, saying only, “I feel comfortable where we are.”

Ticket sales, including the new $10 tickets and $49 monthly passes:

“Those have been extraordinarily well received, so that’s nice. If not, we’d really have an issue. The value there is stunning, to say the least — $3 a game basically, $10 a game. … Overall, the group sales have been dramatically better since last year. I have a full expectation that our attendance numbers are going to be up from last year (1,128,127, lowest in a non-COVID year since 2003). So that’s always a good thing; haven’t been many seasons we’ve been able to say that.”

Corporate sponsorship sales:

“Our sponsorship group has really done a great job and consistently has the last few years. I feel really good where we are there. But, obviously, it’s going to take a lot more, especially as we head towards a new facility. But the sponsors that we have are incredibly supportive, and our sponsorship numbers are up a touch as well.”

Tropicana Field improvements, including concessions and new video boards:

Sternberg said despite knowing the stadium “positively has a five-year shelf life,” the Rays spent $5 million-plus this offseason.

Building a fan base since starting in 1998 as an expansion team:

“It takes at least 25 years to build that generational fan base. So I do believe that that train has finally left the station. And we have kids and adults who were here as younger people in the area. The unfortunate part of that is that we really didn’t become truly successful on the field until 2008. So, there’s a little bit of an asterisk with that.”

Rays rumblings

Pitcher Sergio Romo, who served as the Rays' first opener on May 19, 2018, officially retired last week as a Giant, coming back to pitch in a spring game.
Pitcher Sergio Romo, who served as the Rays' first opener on May 19, 2018, officially retired last week as a Giant, coming back to pitch in a spring game. [ MARK J. TERRILL | AP ]
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Head of mental performance Justin S’ua and staff assembled a slick-looking book for players called “SPARK — 365 Bursts of Inspiration,” that provides daily readings. … Pitchers Shane McClanahan and Drew Rasmussen declined the Rays’ salary offer on their somewhat standard scale for pre-arbitration players and had their contracts renewed. Rasmussen got $739,700 and McClanahan $737,000; the minimum salary is $720,000. … The difference for a first-year 40-man roster player being in the majors and minors? Making $720,000 or $58,800. … With the Port Charlotte complex unavailable due to Hurricane Ian damage, the Rays are onto their fourth facility of the year, shifting extended spring training and Florida Complex League play to Sarasota’s Twin Lakes Park. … Pitcher Sergio Romo officially retired last week as a Giant — returning to pitch in a spring game — but he always will have a key place in Rays history, having served as their first opener on May 19, 2018. … The Tropicana Field suite used to host foster children and adoptive parents will return to its original name, the Big Game James Club, in honor of former Rays pitcher James Shields who, with his wife, Ryane, first launched the idea in 2010. … Randy Arozarena is selling T-shirts and hoodies from an “exclusive Mexican apparel collection” via millions.co. … If you were at the right South Tampa restaurant on March 27, you would have seen two of Tampa Bay’s top sports executives, Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois and Rays baseball operations president Erik Neander having breakfast together, which they do occasionally. … The entertaining and informative WEDU documentary on the 20-year-plus effort to land a team, called “Rise of the Rays — A Devil of a Story,” is available on the wedu.org site. … Rays pitchers have elevated their pregame hacky sack sessions to now using a soccer ball. “Just another fun toy,” reliever Pete Fairbanks said.

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