Though he thinks Montreal would be a fine MLB market down the road, Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg says there are no plans to move the franchise anywhere, as his focus remains on a new Tampa Bay ballpark.
Sternberg has been a mighty patient man when it comes to the issue of a Tropicana Field replacement. On the one hand, St. Petersburg officials foresaw this very circumstance when they crafted an agreement with Tampa Bay Devil Rays ownership to renovate the Trop for MLB usage: by all accounts the lease is solid enough where there would be a legal fuss if the Rays left town. On the other hand, leases can be bought out or ended if post parties agree, and if there is a new ballpark, there is the certainty St. Pete would suffer some level of financial pain (though that will certainly be lessened with the debt being paid down on the Trop). St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster has been an absolutist when it comes to the Rays, but he’s up for reelection and facing a rocky road, so perhaps patience will win out if there’s a change in City Hall.
In any case, it sounds like little is new on the Rays front: Sternberg has a team that wins on the field and loses at the box office; a challenge in finding a new home in the Tampa Bay area; and a resigned nature toward accepting revenue sharing from other MLB teams. From Fox Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi:
FS: What would it take to break the lease?
SS: The specifics of it, I can’t and wouldn’t get into. There’s no real breaking of the lease. It’s there. It’s a lease. We’re there. We have to play our games there until 2027. After that, we don’t have to play our games there. If I walked in and said, ‘Here’s $12 billion. Can you let us out of the lease?’ I think they’ll probably say OK. If I say, ‘Here’s a dollar. I want to leave in five years,’ they’re probably not going to say OK.
By the same token, when you leave, you have to have a place to go. It’s not as easy as moving into a house five miles away. It’s complex. The next house we build has to be a self-sustaining home.
FS: What are the realistic chances the Rays leave the Tampa Bay area?
SS: It’s very unrealistic. If it’s up to me, it’s very unrealistic. There’s certainly been a lot of discussion, from others within baseball, that we should get the hell out of there. It’s not in my makeup to do that. I am committed to doing whatever I can, until I can no longer do it, to make it work there.
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