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Will the Rays Leave St. Pete, Tampa Bay?

The Rays organization met with the Hillsborough County Commission Tuesday and said Major League Baseball does not believe in the Tampa Bay area.

Since he was sworn into office, Mayor Bill Foster has maintained that the Tampa Bay Rays can only explore building a new stadium inside the city limits of St. Petersburg because the Rays' lease does not end at Tropicana Field until 2027. 

For three-plus years, Foster has tried to convince Rays owner Stuart Sternberg that St. Petersburg is the best option for the future of the Rays. However, after the Rays meeting Thursday with the Hillsborough County Commission, it is clear Foster has another entity to convince — Major League Baseball. 

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Sternberg said the MLB no longer views the Tampa Bay area as a viable place for a professional baseball team. 

Sternberg said, according to the Times, that he wants the team to remain in the region, but "Major League Baseball at this point no longer believes in the Tampa Bay area.''

At 2 p.m. on Jan. 29, the Rays will meet with the Pinellas Board of County Commissioners

According to CBSSports.com, MLB responded to Sternberg's comments by releasing a statement Thursday. 

“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.”

Thursday was not the first time MLB called out the Tampa Bay area and Rays fans. 

During the 2012 All-Star Game festivities, MLB Commission Bud Selig said attendance at the Trop was 'inexcusable'. 

"To study the attendance figures every day and see that they're 29th in attendance, it's inexcusable," Selig said in July 2012. "Nobody can defend that. This is a very competitive baseball team. The average Major League attendance is between 31,000 and 32,000. And if my memory is serving me well, Tampa Bay's attendance is around 19-something. It's disappointing."

In September 2012, a local business group held a lengthy presentation touting the proposed 35,000-seat 'Rays Park at Carillon' in the Gateway area of St. Pete. That stadium proposal would have cost from $424 million to $574 million, with private financing or a combination of public and private financing as options, according to CityScape's September presentation. 

In October, Foster sent a letter to Sternberg reiterating his support for the Gateway stadium and his opposition to a stadium outside of St. Pete.

"In light of the Rays obligation to the people of St. Petersburg to play 15 more major league seasons at Tropicana Field, I respectfully disagree that our exploration into this viable site in St. Petersburg would be 'incomplete and inconclusive. ". There are reams of regional studies, transportation analysis and demographic data to provide you with all of the information necessary to evaluate the sustainability of a Gateway site. ...

At this point the only way to adequately preserve the interests of the people of St. Petersburg is to leave the use, management and operation agreement in tact, and the city will not agree, by affirmative act or acquiescence, to any stadium exercise outside of St. Petersburg or Pinellas Gateway."  

John Wolfe, St. Pete City Attorney, said while he believes the Rays want to remain in Tampa Bay, there is a huge risk by letting them negotiate with Tampa directly.

"The Rays and the Times want us to allow them to talk to Tampa,” Wolfe said at an August council meeting. “All that does, if that provision is set aside or waived, both the Times and Tampa are really helping to allow the Rays to talk to anybody in the country.”

Steve January 25, 2013 at 12:09 PM
I'm old enough to remember the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn when I was a teenager. What is clear is that the owners of the Rays have even fewer scruples or sense of obligation than Walter O'Malley, who didn't even have a contract with anybody in Brooklyn to remain there. In the intervening years, everybody from owners of the Mets to George Steinbrenner, of the Yankees, have proven one thing: Where does a 500-pound gorilla sit? Anywhere he wants. If the Rays' leaving St. Pete is a foregone conclusion--and I'm beginning to think that it is--they should be allowed to buy out their remaining contract for whatever cost is involved in turning Tropicana back to what it once was: vacant land, suitable for other use.
Concerned Floridian January 25, 2013 at 12:46 PM
Steve, fyi: before the stadium was built this land was not vacant. It was the Gas Light District inhabited by citizens who had their houses expropriated in exchange of a white elephant. Which sat there idle for many years. The former mayor at the time, David Fisher, bought the Kevin Fostner fantasy that 'if you build it, they will come'... Well, they didn't. And when MJB showed up, it was almost done under duress and after many unforgivable financial concessions. All this given so to spare one's face [City Hall] from shame. Folks should continue to demand that MJB and one of its clubs, The Rays, keep their contractual obligation as they signed it.
Steve January 25, 2013 at 02:51 PM
Worse than their just leaving, however, would be their leaving and leaving us stuck with an empty stadium we have to pay to tear down...
Joshua Streeter January 25, 2013 at 07:58 PM
The ABC Commission stated that some studies show their economic impact as high as $298 million dollars per yer. Well, Stu, just give us ONE year of what you think your team brings us, and we'll let you out of the contract a full THIRTEEN years early.
Rider January 25, 2013 at 08:04 PM
Prepare yourselves, the Rays are leaving St Pete......
Bill H. January 25, 2013 at 08:18 PM
Just remember, they are making money. A lot of money. They are just not making as much money as they want.
Kevin Nodland January 25, 2013 at 09:10 PM
Build it at Carillon or they will leave the State. If we dont get more fans from Tampa to cross the bay to see the Rays......the Trop will not fill up....Period!... .as the past has proven. I love the Trop, but it never fills.....build one in between Tampa and St. Pete...with Air Conditioning, such as Carillon (which is 5 minutes from my house) and we still may have MLB.
Joshua Streeter January 25, 2013 at 09:20 PM
Agreed. Now, it's a matter of how much money we get from them, and from where. If we enforce the contract, MLB will vaporize them, and we'll get nothing.
Concerned Floridian January 25, 2013 at 09:38 PM
So easy. Will this be paid w/your money Kevin? I paid enough and too much already.
Randi January 26, 2013 at 02:36 PM
Sad that our Mayor is DOING NOTHING to try to keep the Rays. Saw him at a game and he was wearing a pin stripe shirt! There needs to be better marketing for the team You can buy the entire season for 1000. Local business could buy and use as incentives for employees of patrons. So many empty seats pass out some tickets at the local hotels.... Give kids on the honor roll a ticket. There are ways, to fill these seats.........
dlstafrd51 January 26, 2013 at 10:50 PM
Building in Tampa,,, is the worse idea ever.... getting to downtown Tampa is a nightmare whether you live in Tampa or St Pete... Tropicana Field.. has easy access,... interstate entrance and exits are very close... there is parking in downtown St Pete... with trollies to and from the stadium... lots to do downtown... if you want to wait for the traffic to die down..... I love the idea or local companies using tickets as incentives... and honoring our students who excel....City gov't needs to think along those lines... instead of these back and forth games between the Rays, Tampa and St Pete (The RAYS have a contract... enough said!!!)
kevin bradley January 28, 2013 at 01:37 AM
if you think the rays will be better in tampa rethink the bucs can't draw a crowd this is not a sports town it sucks. all big mlb parks are downtown look at the marlins new stadium and boy are they in the basement
MirrorLakeMan January 30, 2013 at 10:09 PM
Keep the Trop where it is. It's way safer and more fun to go to a ball game where there are other attactions; like downtown St. Pete to visit. If it's build in Carillon, the owners will have all the fans as sitting financial ducks. The fans will HAVE to spend their discretionary dollars at the super expensive 'baseball oasis' because there will be no other place to go! Also, with Carillon, you'll be dumping 10,000 drunks onto our roadways because there is no place to sober up. With the Trop, you can walk to downtown, and have a meal and sober up (or get another beer nearby if you wish). Also, what's the sense of creating a contract with the Rays if it can be broken at any time? Jeesh!
MirrorLakeMan January 30, 2013 at 10:11 PM
Make tickets cheaper, and everyone wins!! Why is that such a hard concept! Can't all the players and owners survive on their multiple 10 bedrooms homes, or do they need more?
MirrorLakeMan January 30, 2013 at 10:13 PM
Make tickets cheaper, and everyone wins!! Why is that such a hard concept? Can't all the players and owners survive on their multiple million dollar salaries, or do they need more and have to extort the fans that pay them their salaries??
mss March 09, 2013 at 11:47 AM
Winning can be determined by physical events such as scoring goals or crossing a line first, or by the determination of judges who are scoring elements of the sporting performance, including objective or subjective measures such as technical performance or artistic impression. Thanks. Regards, http://youtu.be/7m7QEilKvRk | green coffee bean extract
Brian French September 06, 2013 at 11:17 AM
Tampa Bay is a area that really does not know how to be a community. I have given top quality business seminars in the area for years. When I do them for free it's a long line for the buffet (free food). When I charge $10 (break-even) attendance plummets. Broke or deadbeats... take your choice

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