Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg says he will start the search for a replacement stadium for the team by 2022, whether the city of St. Petersburg is on board or not.
Sternberg told the Tampa Bay Times that he will not back down from exploring sights around Tampa.
The lease at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg expires in 2027, but Sternberg says it is going to take at least five years to plan and build a new facility for the team. He wants a new stadium in place by the time that lease ends.
The Rays have played at Tropicana Field since 1998 and have had the lowest average home attendance in the majors in each of the past three seasons.
“We need a ton of time,” Sternberg said. "Right now we are talking about trying to build something in the Tampa Bay region that would have us playing before 2028. But at some point, we have to start looking at 2028.”
Last month, St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman said he would work with the city council and the team in efforts to keep the franchise in town.
Sternberg has said that without a new stadium that the team will likely be sold and moved.
But during a heated city council meeting in December, the city council rejected an agreement between Kriseman and the team that would have allowed the team to search for stadium sites in nearby Tampa.
“It was a mistake to have our people at the last council meeting. This was a deal we struck with the mayor. It's the city's issue, not my issue,” Sternberg said. “A mob mentality just does not seem to work, for us to show up. Our president came to the meeting last time and was very open with the council, and the criticism he received afterwards was uncalled for and unjust.”
- Scooby Axson