Speaking with Marc Topkin this afternoon from San Diego's Winter Meetings, Rays principal Stu Sternberg owner reflected on the deal announced this morning that would allow the Rays to explore stadium locations in Hillsborough and Pinellas county, and buy out of the lease agreement with Tropicana Field.
The agreement has to be approved within 60 days by the City Council, which holds its next meeting on Thursday. If this agreement, or one like it, cannot be reached in the near future, the Rays may be leaving Tampa Bay.
Should the new deal be passed by the City Council, the Rays will have until Dec. 31, 2017 to declare an opt out date from the current lease, then will be required monetary amounts for each year vacated. The Rays must declare this Termination date in writing before they are allowed to pursue any negotiations with a site outside St. Petersburg city limits.
If the Rays are unable to move forward to a new stadium, in an environment the team believes is fair to the process, Sternberg announced it is his intention to sell the Rays to a new ownership group.
Sternberg reiterated he has no intention of moving the team, but if he cannot find a new stadium for his investment, he has now promised to sell the team to someone who would move the Rays.
Here's confirmation from Topkin:
And #Rays Sternberg said that if there is no new stadium he won't move team out of area but would sell it and new owner would move it— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) December 9, 2014
His cards are on the table, and the message is clear for the City Council.
If they are unable to approve the new deal, or a similar one that allow the Rays to find a new stadium in what the team feels is a fair search process (re: outside the city limits of St. Petersburg), the region will risk losing the team entirely.
Key quote from #Rays Sternberg: "I'm not leaving. I'm not moving this team. I'm not taking this team out of the area. But that's me. (cont)— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) December 9, 2014
More #Rays Sternberg: "Somebody else will take it and move it. It's not a threat, just the reality." (cont)— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) December 9, 2014
Last year the council was unable to approve an amendment to allow the Rays to look for a new location for an annual fee, ending in a 4-4 stalemate. That agreement did not include language for the Rays to opt out of the lease, as the new deal does, further complicating the pending vote.
Full details on the new deal can be reviewed in our previous coverage.