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Rays owner says team must search for new park

Posted on: June 21, 2010 2:20 pm
Edited on: June 21, 2010 2:44 pm
Stuart Sternberg Stuart Sternberg held a news conference Monday to announce that it's time for the Rays to explore ballpark options in the regional area of Tampa Bay, not just in St. Petersburg and Tampa.

The Rays currently play at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg under a lease that runs through 2027.

"Our ability to compete and, quite frankly, to survive rests on our ability to attract people and businesses to our ballpark," Sternberg said according to the Tampa Tribune . "Our customers are our fans. And like any other business, we need to be in a location that is convenient for our fans to reach us."

St. Petersburg mayer Bill Foster reacted to Sternberg's announcement by saying, "Like it or not, we are married and joined at the hip until 2027," the Tribune reports.

Despite recent efforts to spruce up the park and a winning baseball team, attendance remains among the lowest in baseball. Sternberg feels if the Rays hope to remain a viable franchise, either attendance must spike or a new park must be built.

"When I assumed control of the Rays almost five years ago, it was commonly assumed that winning would change everything at Tropicana Field," Sternberg added via "Everyone believed that with a winning team on the field, fans would fill the stands. That has not been the case."

Sternberg spoke about needing everyone to work together to begin a regional search for a park and, rising "above municipal interests," he noted. In March, an independent committe named the ABC Coalition recommended two sites in Tampa -- downtown and West Shore -- and one in the Pinellas county. Sternberg said that the team's own findings jived with the committee's recommendations, which also did not recommend downtown St. Petersburg and fairgrounds east of Tampa.

His comments directly violate the lease with St. Petersburg, as the contract stipulates the team may not directly or indirectly initiate or negotiate agreements for a new home.

"I expect a strong comment from the legal team of St. Petersburg," commented Alan Bomstein of the ABC Coalition.

Negotiations between St. Petersburg and the Rays collasped earlier in the year about a waterfront stadium being built in the city.

Geoffrey Rapp, a sports law expert at the University of Toledo, also weighed in, saying that cities and states outside of Florida may enter the scrum.

"There are a lot of cities that certainly think they can support a major-league team," Rapp said. "Now, knowing one is willing to move could be shark bait in the water for people to put together packages to attract that team."

There has been no indication so far that Sternberg is considering completely vacating the Tampa area.

Without discussion of a new park in the region, "the air of uncertainty over the future of Major League Baseball in the area will continue to linger," Sternberg said.

The Rays are currently 42-27, one game out of first place in the AL East behind the Yankees.

-- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.

Category: MLB
Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 15, 2011 7:28 am
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Since: Dec 9, 2006
Posted on: June 22, 2010 3:29 pm

Rays owner says team must search for new park

ufgators, no need to be so critical of the Tampans, since it is far from just them that blame St. Pete. It is the entire Tampa Bay area for the most part, including much of Pinellas, that blames them. St. Pete's recent stubborn knuckle dragging has only made that far more obvious. I am not from Tampa, I am from West Pasco, which usually tends to be more alligned with Pinellas over Hillsborough, but the opinions here are the same. It isn't just people from Tampa complaining, it is just many people from St. Pete unwilling to admit the obvious.

Since: Jan 11, 2008
Posted on: June 22, 2010 11:43 am

Rays owner says team must search for new park

A retractable roof is a must.  I go to 10 games a year, and you just can't get around the fact no matter where you look there is a concrete wall.  Glass walls with views are also on the list.  No catwalks.  Many good attempts have been made to make the game experience pleasurable.  Nost of these will transfer, but the Trop is more of a default situation.

The city of St. Petersurg and its residents are a big part of the problem.  A majority of the residents in the city do not want baseball.  Every politician elected must cater to this.  The city leadership hasn't shown it is capable of improving the situation.  Baywalk has been an immense failure.  To this point, almost every major client the city has had either failed or is not prospering.  The current mayor can work with the Rays or dig his feet in the sand.  It looks as though he is choosing warfare.

Many different attempts to increase attendance have failed.  The fan base won't substantially change.  The jump will come from increased business participation.  The consensus is this will only result from a stadium within a 30 mle or so radius of downtown Tampa.  This can still happen within the limits of St. Petersurg, but removes downtown St Pete from the equation. 

This situation has been hovering at the boiling point for years now.  It is time for it to blow up and reach conclusion.

Since: Jun 22, 2010
Posted on: June 22, 2010 10:06 am

Rays owner says team must search for new park

I live in St. Pete but if a move helps then I'm all for it.  Of course the success will depend on all these Tampa fans running their mouths now to actually get off their butts and go to the games.  We'll see.  This is a community with a large % of transplants still loyal to their teams.  I think those not going to games are just making excuses.  If they really wanted to go they would make the drive once a month and see a few games.  New stadium, new location - no more excuses Tampons.  (or is Tampanians?)

As for Rays ownership, how about cutting your beer and food prices in half once in a while during the week.  People go to games to have a good time and beer and food is part of that.  I know plenty of baseball fans that flat out can't afford it.  Nobody wants to pay for $10 upper deck seats and bring a bag lunch.  Sure it's cheap but it's way less fun. 

Keep the Dog Track, it's another source of entertainment and it's been there for decades.  Besides it's only 10 minutes north of the Trop.

One last comment - A/C.  I too like a beautiful out doors stadium, but I love watching games in 72 degrees when it's in the 90's outside and very humid.  Like I said we might as well move the location and see if it helps, but as far as sitting down to watch a game the Trop is just fine.

Since: Aug 16, 2006
Posted on: June 22, 2010 7:42 am

Rays owner says team must search for new park

I drive 3 1/2 hours two or three times a year to Miami to see my team play. And I did that five years ago when my team had won one championship in my lifetime.

Since: Oct 12, 2006
Posted on: June 22, 2010 3:01 am

Rays owner says team must search for new park

Miami seems to think that a new stadium is the solution too. I have news for them, they won't put any more butts in the bleachers by moving it. The Marlins currently share facilities with the Dolphins, no way they can fill that stadium. so it's not the sandbox that say the 36K seat venue that the Rays play in. But lets take the teams with stadiums say about 45K capacity, someone like the Phillies fill that. If Tampa can't fill 36K with a winning team, how are they going to fill 45K ? The Marlins barely get 25K on a big weekend night with stadium concerts after the game and so on, I have to believe the Rays can't get that level of attendance done, new or old stadium.

Just look at the attendance numbers, Tampa is under 2/3 capacity 22/36, the idiot thinking he gets a new stadium and can increase fan turnout, even for the 36K sandbox ? they're in, is delusional. The truth of the matter is the Tampa/St Pete area & the Rays don't have the fanbase to support the team. All these delusional thoughts that the Rays can draw fans like the Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers & Cardinals just to mention teams with a longer and storied history is absurd.

The Marlins & Rays are expansion teams, the respective cities have a off & on again relationship with the team. I don't even think the Marlins had fanbase the last WS season that they won it. Yeah they got fan support during it, but that died the day after the team won the WS. Just to give you an idea:

2003 Marlins home average attendance 16,290
2010 Marlins home average attendance 16,376

The difference in fanbase over 7 years, they increased attendance by 86 each game. And how much of this fluctuation is a fan like myself, who goes to watch the Phillies only, the 86 average increase can probably be attributed to the schedule differences from season to season ?  Obviously, scheduling the Yankees and other teams with fan draw is going to drive the numbers up. With the Marlins, the stadium is empty, who does show up, most are for the other team. It's almost pathetic. Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla were supposed to be a step towards keeping bigger name players and draw, but the Marlins have a history of dismantling a team after it wins a WS, Tampa is going thru that phase because 22K fans will not pay who they have on the roster. The Rays have bet on winning drawing the fans and now the MBA's that talked the smack with Powerpoint presentations and slideshows simply showed they were wrong in the projections. For teams like the Rays, the franchise has to be a writeoff, revenue sharing for the leagues sake has to happen.

Since: Sep 7, 2006
Posted on: June 22, 2010 1:27 am

Rays owner says team must search for new park

The Rays have done everything they had promised. They made the park alot nicer. they gave away free parking to carpoolers. They let you bring in your own food. They put a winner on the field. They keep the prices fair. They let you tailgate in the parking lots. All they want is a new stadium. Its as close to proven that it will increase revenue.

Locations I suggest in St. pete limits: Tear down the dog track!....or......Carilion.

If it were to move to Tampa, the fairgrounds area would be the best location, seconded by Raymond James Stadium area, followed by Downtown Tampa.

I love the Rays, and I hope they do not leave. If they left, they should go to Raleigh, Nashville, or Portland.....Not Vegas!

Since: Nov 8, 2009
Posted on: June 22, 2010 12:21 am

Rays owner says team must search for new park

While the location of the stadium may not be very convenient, the bigger issue is the facility itself.  This place is HHH Metrodome South.  The facility is a relic from an era that died over twenty years ago.  This facility was built in the late eighties in order to attract an MLB team to the area.  It is generic and not a pleasant experience for the fans.  These attempts to woo other teams were fruitless, but ironically got some of the most beautiful parks (ie AT&T Park) in baseball built.  The stadium found a tenant ten years after it was built when the Devil Rays were added to the AL.  Tropicana Field was EXTREMELY outdated before baseball even arrived.  While it sucks that fans are not watching one of the best teams in baseball, who can blame them for wanting to experience baseball the way it was meant to be played... OUTSIDE!  Or at least with a retractable roof.  Speaking as a lifelong Twins fan, "Build it and they will come".  Not only will they have better attendance at a better facilty, but you'll see increased attendance leading up to the opening.

Since: Nov 7, 2008
Posted on: June 21, 2010 11:39 pm

Rays owner says team must search for new park

But 18k (no matter of they are kids or millionaire bankers) leaves almost 30k empty seats.  Most teams, who aren't in Florida, can draw 20 to 30 a game and they lack the crazy good team you guys have. In your world series year, you ranked 12th in the AL in attendance and are only slightly better now.  Sure, the stadium sucks and might be too far away, but for a team as good as yours, people will travel to see the game....if the market can sustain a team, which Tampa/SP can't.  

Since: Aug 31, 2006
Posted on: June 21, 2010 10:41 pm

Rays owner says team must search for new park

To all you haters out there wanting to use this as a way to bash fans in the area just go home.  And to the Philly fan that lives in the area your fan base has no room to talk about understanding the game.  Any fans that are known for the crap you all do at games just needs to sit down and be quiet.  I moved here from Atlanta 2 years ago and the fans that do attend are loud and into the game.  The fans from my Braves team sit around making no noise just there as a place to hang out.  The huge problem is not the fans that do not attend but the businesses that do not support s St Pete product.  FACT: Most tickets sold in a given night to MOST MLB teams is corporate paid.  Typically about 70% to 80% of attendance are those bought by corportate sponsors while the Rays are only at about 20%.  So when the Rays have 18K fans and the Angels have 30K most likely the same number of people are actually in attendance and more people in Tampa actually bought a seat to see the team.

The answer is a stadium in Tampa where both the Lightning and the Bucs do well even with mediocre teams at times.  The current venue is a 30 minute drive to only 19.1% of the Bay area which is the lowest in all of MLB and the closest four from that all have mass transit that runs directly to the stadium; not the case in St Pete.  It will take about two to three years to get this done b/c of the resistance from St Pete (and they know it will happen they just want to hold them ransome so that they get favorable tax revenue sharing from Tampa and Hillsborough Co over to St Pete and Pinellas Count as part of any deal) then it will take 3-4 years to build.  They will build itnear the water or fairgrounds by the new transit to Orlando and close to Hard Rock Casino. 

That said that leaves about 5 - 7 years they need to keep the young talent pushing this team into title runs b/c they will not have more revenue until the new stadium is open.

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