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Manfred: Rays ballpark search now requires “sense of urgency”

Tampa Bay Rays Ybor City ballpark rendering 7

With Montreal out of the equation and 2027 approaching, Commissioner Rob Manfred says the team and Major League Baseball needs to have a “sense of urgency” about the Tampa Bay Rays ballpark search.

While it’s not likely the Rays ballpark search was a prime topic of discussion during this week’s quarterly owners meetings, it surely was brought up. And with the Oakland and Tampa Bay ballpark situations regarded as old business that need solutions, the sport can’t move on with the inevitable expansion talks until resolutions are reached.

Since MLB’s Executive Council reversed course and denied the Rays the opportunity exploring a Tampa Bay/Montreal joint tenancy, owner Stuart Sternberg and team reps have met with elected officials both St. Petersburg and Tampa/Hillsborough County. The talk still centers on a new Ybor City ballpark with a price tag under a billion dollars, while recently St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch has promised a reevaluation of the best use of the scenic waterfront airport site that could be perfect for a new ballpark. While we’ve not exactly sure this rises yet to a bidding war, the fact that so many local elected officials are speaking so favorably of a new Rays ballpark is something we have not seen for years.

And cleaning up the Rays ballpark situation–which in turn will clean up team finances and by extension impact MLB’s revenue sharing–is something of interest to Manfred and MLB owners. Hence the statement he made yesterday, per AP:

“They have been in a substantial period of uncertainty as to where they’re going to play, which in turn dictates that economic outlook for the franchise,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after an owners’ meeting. “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 the most effective way.”…

“My hope is that Tampa. the officials in Tampa Bay and the region … and the Rays can work together to find a solution that’ll 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 that market. … I think some of the comments from civic leaders in the region have also been encouraging.”

The rendering is a conceptual plan and not tied to any specific proposal.

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