Yesterday’s meeting between owner Stuart Sternberg and St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster was supposed to be a big moment in the progress towards a new stadium. While nobody expected any major developments, it was just good that the two sides finally decided to sit down and talk about the subject. But did they?

Based on the report by Michael Sasso of the Tampa Tribune, it doesn’t sound like the two sides discussed the stadium situation at all…

Sternberg said the two sides didn’t discuss potential locations for a future stadium and there was no talk of how the Rays might buy out their contract to play at Tropicana Field…Much of the discussion focused on how the city might help the team with marketing and improving upon home attendance in 2011 that was next to last, Sternberg said.

This is a huge problem.

While it is good that the two sides are discussing ways to improve attendance, this is something the two sides should be doing anyway. And it shouldn’t require the owner of the team and the mayor of the city. This is something the Rays marketing department, and members of the mayor’s staff should be able to handle.

And what does this say about the bigger issue of building a new stadium? If it requires a once-a-year meeting between the Mayor and the owner to sit down and discuss something as basic as selling tickets for the upcoming season, when exactly are the two sides going to talk about the stadium?

Yesterday’s meeting wasn’t expected to solve the stadium issue. But it was supposed to raise our hopes. Instead, we may have less confidence in a deal ever getting done. And that is scary.

 
 

22 Comments

  1. Martin B says:

    It’s only scary if you want the citizens of St. Pete to fund a stadium for which they will never see a good return on.

  2. Sarah says:

    If indeed all they talked about was selling tickets then yes, kiss Tampa Bay baseball goodbye.

    But if they had a more productive talk that at least opened the door to future negotiations, would they really be announcing it?

    I don’t think we can assume much of anything from the lack of substantial disclosures after this meeting.

    • Cork Gaines says:

      Certainly possible. But it would have been nice to at least hear one side say “we agreed to meet again and continue talking.” They wouldn’t even need to set a date. But I am not even sure the two sides plan on meeting again.

      • Sarah says:

        Sigh. Good point. I’m trying to find reasons to remain optimistic.

        • J 2.0 says:

          The team leaving the area entirely is not likely. Charlotte cannot sustain a baseball team. They couldn’t even keep an NBA team. They can’t sell a seat for their football team currently either. San Antonio is too small of a market and there isn’t any room for another team in the Northeast. Everybody calm down. Stu wants the team in the center of the population which is in Hillsborough county. They won’t see out every game but it should increase attendance by 5-8k.

          • Cork Gaines says:

            This is the biggest thing the Rays have going for them. I think there are markets AS GOOD as Tampa/StPete, but none better. So why pay for the move and building a new fanbase, when there is an equally good one already in place?

            That being said, there is still reason for concern. What if Charlotte came to Stu and said “we’ll build you a stadium and you won’t have to spend a dime.” Now, instead of having to ante up $200M of his own money for a new stadium, AND worrying about the contract in St. Pete, now Stu only has to worry about the contract. And all of the sudden, going to court doesn’t seem as big of a deal (to Stu).

            At that point, whether Charlotte (or another city) would be better in the long run is irrelevant. Stu rides the wave of a new stadium in a market that will be giddy to have a team. Then Stu sells the team 5 years down the road and the market is somebody else’s problem.

  3. Political Man says:

    Martin,

    I can’t think of a more muttled response about this issue than the one you just gave. Their is nothing wrong with the city of St. Pete expecting some sort of compromise on the current lease WHEN the Rays decide to move somewhere else.

    The current state of the argument is not if the Rays will stay in Tropiciana, but if the City of St. Pete is the site of the location. If your comment above is what you actually believe, then I urge you to call the mayors office and tell him to get as much compensation for the court as he can and allow the Rays to seek a new stadium in the Tampa Bay area but out of St. Petersburg. The idea that the city can keep this team in St. Petersburg by waving around the current stadium lease is going to lose the Rays for the entire area.

    • Martin B says:

      That’s the rub, isn’t it? The Mayor (who I’m not a fan of, and I think acts like a petulant child most of the time) can’t say “Hey, go look for a stadium elsewhere” and then seek compensation for the rest of the contract. One of the heavy negotiating hammers the city has is the provisions prohibiting the Rays from looking elsewhere. Once they give that up, the city’s leverage becomes significantly less.

      If Stu really wants to look elsewhere for a stadium, pay us (the city of St. Pete) some money up front to get out of that provision of your contract.

  4. J 2.0 says:

    I fully expect the stadium to be moved to the Tampa side of the bay where the majority of the areas population is centralized. Keep in mind I live in St Pete. I would love the stadium to be moved to the fairgrounds or else downtown. And considering I live in Feather Sound, I DON’T WANT THE STADIUM IN GATEWAY!

  5. John says:

    Bill Foster is a sniveling little twit. He is a selfish little prick and it will be sad that his ugly mug will be in local history books as the guy who pushed the Rays to leave town.

  6. Dave says:

    I think this indicates the Rays leaving St. Pete sooner rather than later. A year from now Stu can say, “Hey, last year the city offered to help us improve our attendance and it didn’t work. Even the city couldn’t bring us more fans. I guess we just need a new stadium, your honor.”

    Look for Oakland to get their stadium/home city mess straightened out this year, then Bud and co. will bring a whole new level of hell to this issue next off season. MLB will paint the city of St. Pete as small-time and un-viable, then the wailing and gnashing of teeth will begin in earnest as Pinellas residents and Foster will collectively prove the case for Bud. Side bet — Foster remains as resolute and intractable as ever while filing motions to have the court case delayed until the next guy takes office.

    Long term, the Rays eventually win and get out of their lease, Stu moves the team to a new stadium in or out of TB (he doesn’t really care, wherever the best deal is), the value of the franchise goes up to an all time high, Stu sells (yes, he loves $ more than baseball, buy low and sell high is what Wall St guys do, even Stu), and then the Rays will resume being the Royals, here or elsewhere.

    I say this not to be pessimistic but realistic. The Rays are special right now, it won’t last forever (or that long), so enjoy it while you can. Just realize this is a relationship where the Rays aren’t ever going to love you back!

  7. Leighroy says:

    I think all the negative press surrounding the situation in Miami for the Marlins, plus the continuing struggles for the A’s and Rays has shed light to many cities. In a time when governments are shrinking due to diminishing budgets and lower tax-revenues, it is simply uneconomical for cities and taxpayers to pay for stadiums anymore.

    Even in Dallas, Jerry Jones had to pay for 70%, with the NFL kicking in 150 mil worth of his football stadium. This for a sport with billions in guaranteed revenues. Baseball is fading further in the rear-view of the NFL and everyone just needs to face facts.

    The Rays will be unable to move anywhere outside of the region, without that destination’s city bankrupting their taxpayers. Foster knows it, the Rays know it, MLB knows it.

    Unless Pinellas and Hillsborough counties in conjuction with the Rays don’t work out some sort of 3-way split where each county splits revenues in the future, and shares a portion of the costs, this deal simply will never happen. And I’m not holding my breath.

    Get used to the Rays playing in the Trop for a looooong time.

  8. Gus says:

    Sternberg may eventually realize that stadium location may be a factor, but it is way down on the list of his poor attendance factors. Maybe he is coming to this conclusion.

    If they shut up about relocation (within or beyond Tampa Bay) until something is even possible — no local government in the country is currently building a a new facility for any football, baseball, basketball or hockey team — they can maybe sell some season tickets. That new stadium sector is dead until local governments get back on their financial feet.

    Rays should market their winter signings. This is by far their best winter of activity, and their ability to keep the team together and add a few decent parts is real encouragement. I’d rather be a Rays fan than a marlins fan right now. They are fools gold. Rays are the real thing.

  9. Barry says:

    St. Pete mayor is a total idiot. Sternberg has no reason to even consider his opinion. The Rays will break the lease when the right sight is found and it will not be in Pinellas. There is way too much money riding here. Think of all of the underlying things that are happening;
    1)Coors Field developers buying empty lots around Channelside
    2) JeFf Vinik getting involved
    3) Ferg trying to buy closed bar/restaurant between Forum and likely Rays stadium sight.
    JUST FOLLOW THE MONEY!

  10. Raysfan137 says:

    Conjecture, opinions, fear, absurdity….

    That’s all any of us have to offer on this who are not mayors or billionaires. This is absolutely an estranged business relationship. Why shouldn’t we expect them to start small in their discussions.

    Rays will be in the Trop in 2012 – and I plan on watching them win the AL East again.

    Beyond that why get ourselves worked into a tizzy about a meeting. If that meeting didn’t occur right now what then ?

    When they move they move. Where it is, we’ll know when we know. We’re not going to change it unless we’re mayors or billionaires.

  11. Don says:

    1st possible game in a new stadium would be 2018-2020, by then Foster will be in a home and Stuie will get bored with his toy, sold out, and a new owner and some county taxpayers will have the $800mil in debt and the Rays will still be drawing 20,000

  12. J 2.0 says:

    I can’t make any sense of this post. I don’t know what you’re trying to say. The homophobic remark seems unnecessary.

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