CLEARWATER, Fla. - Tampa Bay Rays owner Stu Sternberg on Tuesday afternoon told the Pinellas County Commission that he wants the team to stay in this community, but that doesn't just mean St. Petersburg.
Last week, Sternberg talked with leaders in Hillsborough County, today he was in Clearwater, making a pitch to commissioners. He says he doesn't want money, just the opportunity to shop around for what's best for the franchise.
If it was up to at least one Pinellas County Commissioner, the Rays would be free to look where they want for a location to build a new stadium…
"Maybe we are the best place. If we are not, I want you in that place, in this region, in the state of Florida," said Pinellas County commissioner Susan Latvala.
The Rays were invited to talk with the commission about their struggles at Tropicana Field.
Number one on the list for owner Stu Sternberg: Poor attendance. The mark of 19,000 a game is the worst in Major League Baseball.
"The one thing (Major League) Baseball has never seen before is a team winning like this, and doing it the right way, excitement, young players, and not see a sort of movement behind it," said Sternberg.
Sternberg says a new stadium is needed, and with that he can envision 30,000 fans a game, which is the overall league average.
"I believe that given the following that we have on television, the fans are out there, and if we make a stadium enjoyable, accessible, potentially indoor-outdoor, and continue the way we've been doing things, I think it's a very reasonable goal."
The Rays lease at Tropicana Field goes through 2027, and city leaders of St. Petersburg haven't been open to letting the team explore leaving.
"I have a fiduciary duty to the people of West Tampa Bay, and those are the people of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County," said St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster.
County Commissioner Janet Long asked Sternberg, "What do you think it's going to take to move your conversations with Mayor Foster beyond where they are now?"
"It's pretty clear to me from our conversations that there would be no movement," replied Sternberg.
While that may seem grim, Mayor Foster let the Rays know he was free to meet with them this Thursday.
Sternber said he'd check his schedule, but either way, will meet with Foster soon.
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