TAMPA, Fla. — Major League Baseball Commissioner addressed the media Thursday as his sport's owner lockout careens toward delaying spring training, but he also took time to address the Tampa Bay Rays and their future as the team looks for a new ballpark to stay in the area.
It was just a few weeks ago the Rays announced Major League Baseball had rejected a plan put forth by the team to play half the regular season in Tampa and half the season in Montreal, Quebec. Commissioner Manfred said the tone of Rays owner Stu Sternberg was great.
"I’m encouraged by, I think Mr. Sternberg’s tone the day of the announcement was, I thought it was perfect in an extraordinarily difficult situation," Manfred said Thursday.
The commissioner also said he thought comments from community leaders in the region were, "encouraging."
"My hope is that Tampa, the officials in Tampa Bay, in the region, and the Rays can work together to find a solution that will keep a full season of baseball in Tampa," Manfred said. "We think Tampa is a major league market and we want to find a solution that makes the club economically viable in the market."
Part of the issue for the Rays will be timing. Proposals that have been submitted thus far have detailed a park being completed around 2025-2026. The Rays lease for Tropicana Field runs through 2028.
Manfred said the league is cognizant of how quickly time is running out.
"We do have a sense of urgency with respect to the Tampa situation. I think the club being in, and they have been in a substantial period of uncertainty as to where they’re going to play, which, you know, determines the economic outlook for the franchise," Manfred said. "That’s a bad thing. It’s a bad thing for a business. It hampers the ability of the business to operate and the club to operate in the most effective way.
The Rays have been eyeing a stadium in the Ybor City area of Tampa, but have not been able to agree on funding or many other areas surrounding the construction of a new part.
After the split-season idea was shut down, the Rays pretty much had to start back at square one.