How are Rays’ hopes for a new stadium impacted by A’s-Las Vegas deal?

Tales | Stuart Sternberg says they are focused on St. Petersburg, moving forward and are optimistic a deal can be struck by year’s end.
St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch, left, speaks with  Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg on opening day. The Rays are still trying to get a new stadium built somewhere in Tampa Bay.
St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch, left, speaks with Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg on opening day. The Rays are still trying to get a new stadium built somewhere in Tampa Bay. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published April 22|Updated April 22

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays may soon stand alone as baseball’s problem child.

A’s officials last week announced that they had signed a binding agreement to purchase 49 acres of land for a stadium in Las Vegas and were focusing all efforts on relocating, abandoning the years-long “parallel path” of seeking a new facility in Oakland.

For more than a decade, the Rays and A’s have been lumped together as the teams that needed new homes, whose bad stadium situations were a drag on Major League Baseball, drawing large revenue-sharing checks and holding up expansion to 32 teams. Now the A’s, if they can get a reported $500 million in public money for the $1.5 billion project that includes an entertainment district, will have resolution.

So how does the A’s-Las Vegas deal impact the Rays’ efforts — which they are optimistic about — to get a new home?

“There was an eye on them and an eye on us, so when and if that (deal) happens, it’ll be two eyes on us,” Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said.

The Rays are working hard on a deal of their own, seeking to negotiate an agreement by the end of the year to build a new $1.2 billion stadium adjacent to the current Tropicana Field site as part of a massive development of the surrounding Historic Gas Plant District. They also have continued conversations with Tampa officials about potentially building there.

“We’ve been focused on St. Pete, and it’s moving forward,” Sternberg said Friday. “We continue to have conversations; we talked to people today, we talked this week. So we’re working behind the scenes to do everything we can. And we seem to be making progress.”

The Rays’ deal requires two agreement to be worked out: One for the stadium and one for the entire 86-acre project, which includes housing, retail, restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, etc., and is headed up by the global Hines firm.

“We’re working at both and neither one is easy,” Sternberg said. “We have an army of people working on each and there’s some crossover.”

The stadium deal is, obviously, the key. And as a partnership between the team, the city and Pinellas County — which controls the tourist tax dollars that are central to the funding — it is more complicated than a simple three-way split.

“The county and the city are really working beautifully together,” Sternberg said, “so that’s part of the reason why we’re all optimistic.”

MLB doesn’t have many teams move and would seem unlikely to want to abandon the Tampa Bay market — and one side of heavily populated Florida — despite the long history of attendance issues.

But does commissioner Rob Manfred’s support of the Athletics’ move — a likely sign the team also will get the required 75 percent approval vote of the owners — serve as a cautionary tale to cities of the consequences of not working out a deal?

“No,” Sternberg said. “You don’t like to see that happen, but it comes to it.”

The goal is to make the whole league healthier, Sternberg said. That is why Manfred waiving any relocation fee makes sense — even though the A’s would be taking a prime site for expansion which, at a time when regional sports networks are teetering, could bring owners $4 billion to split with two new teams.

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“It’s in all of baseball’s interests to have the A’s and any baseball team on the firmest footing possible,” Sternberg said. “A fee to put them on the firmest footing possible makes it more difficult for them — to say ‘Look, we’re going to let you move and your revenues are going to go up but we’re going to take them all from you.’

“Everybody wants to see us, they want to see the A’s, on really good ground. Fortunately for us, we’re playing good baseball right now. The A’s had amazing runs over time and recently. You can’t hold that together. It’s hard to hold together even if you have a decent revenue team. It’s next to impossible to hold together if you’re a lower revenue; it’s impossible to hold together.”

Rays rumblings

Randy Land is seen during Friday's game between the Rays and the White Sox.
Randy Land is seen during Friday's game between the Rays and the White Sox. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

The Rays started a “Randy Land” seating area in leftfield (section 141) for Friday home games in honor of Randy Arozarena. This week was a soft launch; starting May 5, tickets will be $49 (with 360 available), including an Arozarena T-shirt (four versions in a rotation), a free drink for each homer he hits in that game, and fan props such as fatheads, large letters to spell out his name, Mexican flags and more. … If the Rays regular-season finish is decided by a narrow margin, Friday’s game will be one they look back on as a key win given how badly they pitched (eight walks, 10 hits). … Pete Fairbanks and Jason Adam, the two highest-paid relievers, split the check for the bullpen crew dinner last weekend in Toronto. … Class A Bowling Green infielder Junior Caminero, who impressed during spring training, was added to’s top 100 prospect list, the fifth Ray included. … The suddenly power-hitting Yandy Diaz, on whether he could now be a 25- or 30-homer guy: “We don’t think about that one.” … The Rays on Monday were guests for the smallest (non-2020) crowd in the 21-season history of Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park, an announced 7,375. … Producers/promoters of the A Taste of Love movie, which premieres April 27 at St. Petersburg’s Sunscreen Film Festival, missed a chance not including Brian Anderson, the Rays TV analyst. The movie features John Kreese, who starred in the Cobra Kai TV series Anderson has made frequent mention of on the air. … Odds of the Rays winning the World Series, per, dropped from 25-1 in the offseason to 20-1 on opening day to 9-1 last week. … Catcher Curt Casali started his big-league career with the Rays, playing with them for parts of 2014-17. He has since been with the Reds, Giants, Mariners and now Reds again, 468 games in all, before finally playing against the Rays, the only team he hadn’t faced. … Ex-Ray Ji-Man Choi, traded to the Pirates in November, will be sidelined about eight weeks due to a left Achilles strain.

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