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The Rays Tank: Stu Sternberg leads presentation to Hillsborough County

Recapping the Rays' hour long presentation for the Hillsborough County Commission last week, led by principal owner Stu Sternberg.

J. Meric

On Friday, Erik quoted Major League Baseball's latest comments on the Tampa Bay area, and how unsustainable it seems to be for baseball. This came from an official statement by the MLB Commissioner's office and had kind words for the Rays organization, but expressed disappointment in the community.

The full statement is as follows:

The Commissioner has had conversations with Stuart Sternberg and is disappointed with the current situation in the Tampa Bay market.

The status quo is simply not sustainable. The Rays have been a model organization, averaging nearly 92 wins per year since 2008 and participating in the Postseason three times, including their inaugural World Series in 2008.

Their .565 winning percentage over the last five years is second among all American League Clubs and third in all of Major League Baseball. Last year, the 30 Major League Clubs averaged nearly 2.5 million in total attendance; the Rays, who finished with a 90-72 record, drew 1,559,681, which ranked last in the game.

The Club is an eager contributor to worthy causes in the Tampa and St. Petersburg communities
and takes pride in meeting the social responsibilities that come with being a Major League franchise. We are hopeful that the market will respond in kind to a Club that has done a marvelous job on and off the field.

Affirming these comments, Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg came before the Hillsborough County Commission to say his patience, along with that of the Rays' co-owners and Major League Baseball, is running thin.

Sternberg and the Rays were invited to speak by commission chair Ken Hagan, who believes the standoff between St. Petersburg and the Rays puts baseball at risk for the entire Tampa Bay region. Sternberg confirmed that suspicion, reiterating that MLB has lost its faith in the area, but not him - optimistic that a solution will be found.

The Tampa Bay Times quoted Hagan directly a saying that Tropicana Field "is not a sustainable long-term option... It's not a matter of whether the Rays ultimately relocate but when and where. To simply put our heads in the sand and take the position that the issue will mysteriously resolve is short-sighted.''

St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster had threatened to sue Hillsborough County for meddling in his city's affairs if Hagan and the Council hosted Sternberg, but that apparently did not deter the meeting from occurring. Because the Rays' hour long presentation and subsequent discussions did not focus on specific stadium locations outside Pinellas County, Foster seemed to have relented against his threats.

During the presentation, team officials noted that only 25% of Rays fans appear to live in Pinellas County, while at least a third live in Hillsborough County. This seemed to further emphasize a division in opinion between Mayor Foster and the Rays.

Owner Stu Sterberg remains commited to the entire Tampa Bay area and wants to resolve the stadium conflict in a way that serves all invested parties. Meanwhile, Foster believes that serving the interests of Pinellas County is no different from serving the Tampa Bay community, and that the two should not be distinguished from one another.

"That's why I have taken the position," Foster told the Times, of not letting the Rays look for stadium sites outside the city. The contract for Tropicana Field runs through 2027 and, "binds the team to the entire region."

For more details about what was (and was not) discussed at the meeting, Shadow of the Stadium's Noah Pransky attended the event and highlights the main points here, here, and here.


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