Despite the fact that some of their preferred locations are off the table, Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg says the team is still searching the region for a new ballpark site.
The search for a new ballpark has included Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, either of which could land the Rays as they attempt to exit Tropicana Field. At this point, the team has not come through with a preferred location, and Sternberg recently explained how the process is unfolding.
One of the issues, according to Sternberg, is that a few of the team’s top choices are longer available. The Rays had identified five locations–including three in Tampa, and two in St. Petersburg–as candidates, but Sternberg says that the team has learned that they are not options for a new ballpark.
The St. Petersburg locations were the site of Al Lang Stadium, and the waterfront location of the Albert Whitted Airport. Al Lang Stadium, which has been sought by the Rays before, is could be expanded to accommodate an MLS expansion franchise if a current proposal comes to fruition.
In Tampa, the three locations that the Rays considered were the Heights, Jefferson High School, and the site of the former Tampa Tribune headquarters. Though these options are off the table, Sternberg expressed confidence that the Rays will eventually find a solution in the Tampa Bay area. More from The Tampa Bay Times:
St. Petersburg and Pinellas County officials said they haven’t given up hope that the Rays will stay and play in a new stadium at a redeveloped Trop site or elsewhere on their side of the bay.
[Tampa mayor Bob] Buckhorn said it’s up to the Rays to bring forward their preferred solution to keeping Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay.
Sternberg said the team is doing just that. He said the search process is “not being done in a vacuum” and involves participation and cooperation from land owners, local officials and MLB, which he updates through commissioner Rob Manfred.
“We have to work with Major League Baseball to show them we have a pro forma (plan) that actually makes some sense to spend the next 50 years,” Sternberg said.
He said there is no deadline to find a new site, except the deal with St. Petersburg that allows the team to look elsewhere expires in January 2019. Sternberg has said previously that he expected their search to conclude by August, but on Thursday he said it could take until the end of the year.
“Nobody wants this process to move quicker than we do,” he said
The Rays have been looking for years to replace Tropicana Field, and a decision by the St. Petersburg City Council in January 2016 that allowed them to look for a ballpark site in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties has given the Rays more flexibility.
RELATED STORIES: Rays Consider Tech Features for Future Ballpark; Sternberg: Progress Being Made on New Rays Ballpark Search; Rick Kriseman Meets with Rob Manfred on Rays Ballpark; Hillsborough, Pinellas Continue Rays Ballpark Pitches; Best of 2016: #8, Rays Continue Ballpark Search; Manfred Discusses Rays Ballpark Search; Rays Connected to Montreal Move; Hillsborough County Mulls Funding of Rays Ballpark; Hillsborough County Pushing for Rays; Oldsmar Proposes Rays Ballpark; HKS Tweaks Plan for Tropicana Field Site; Oldsmar Making Push for Rays; Hillsborough Nearing High Tourism Impact Status; Ballpark Pitched for Tropicana Field Site; Is it Time to Start Eliminating Potential Rays Ballpark Sites?; Separating Wheat From Chaff in Tampa Bay Ballpark Search; Pinellas County Expanding Rays Ballpark Search; Pinellas County Throws 10 Sites into Rays Ballpark Mix; Rays: Single-Deck Ballpark, Non-Traditional Seating Possible; Rays, Politicos Discuss Nine Potential Ballpark Sites; Tampa Bay Rays: We want urban ballpark; Talking new Rays ballpark: roof, tech and more; Tampa mayor pitches downtown Rays ballpark; St. Pete to allow Rays to search in region for new ballpark site;St. Pete: Rays could leave by 2020 for $33 million; Sternberg: Rays still believe in Tampa Bay;Sternberg: Rays ballpark search will proceed;Rays, St. Pete continue ballpark relocation talks;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