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Rays shift new-ballpark duties after Friedman departure

Tampa Bay RaysWith Andrew Friedman departing for the Los Angeles Dodgers, a restructuring of the Tampa Bay Rays front office has incoming president Brian Auld in charge of new-ballpark talks.

The 37-year-old Auld, placing Matt Silverman as team president (Silverman replaced Friedman as VP of baseball operations), faces some challenges in pursuing a new ballpark. First off, he’ll need to jump-start the process. Surprisingly, new-ballparks talks have stalled this year: many expected the election of Rick Kriseman as St. Petersburg mayor would lead to a less-confrontational approach from both sides, but instead we’ve seen little progress on replacing Tropicana Field and working out a financial plan that can please both sides. Kriseman doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to allow the Rays to search throughout the entire Tampa Bay area for a new ballpark site, and the Rays don’t seem to be in a hurry to push the city on some sort of resolution.

Auld does have exposure to the ballpark talks; he’s not walking in with no experience. From the Tampa Tribune:

“I’ve ridden side-car, if you will, on the stadium situation since 2006 when we got started,” Auld said.

Auld said he will rely heavily on Melanie Lenz, the Rays’ vice president of development, during what he hopes will be successful talks with St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman. Auld said he is optimistic an agreement can be reached by the end of the year that will allow the Rays to look throughout the Tampa Bay area for a new stadium location.

“Obviously, we need to figure it out,” Auld said. “I think we understand our incentives, and the community’s incentives are perfectly aligned. Now, figuring out exactly what that is and where the stadium should go will be very challenging. But it needs to go in the best place for the Rays, and it needs to go in the best place for the community.”

In reality, Auld is the third Rays staffer to address new-ballpark issues this year: Michael Kalt, of course, spearheaded talks until he left the team in January.

RELATED STORIES: Most county-board candidates indicate support for new Rays ballpark in Tampa; Time running out on key Rays funding component; New year, new day for new Rays ballpark?; Foster: MLB looking for reason to flee Tampa Bay; Residents: Let Rays buy out Trop lease, move to Tampa; Selig: No updates on Rays ballpark situation; Rays: We won’t buy out Trop lease on St. Pete’s terms; St. Pete mayor: Talks with Rays going poorly; Poll: little support for public funding of new Rays ballpark

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