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Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said he will sell team if new stadium not built

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Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said if the team does not get a new stadium, the probability he will still own the team in 2023 is "probably nil," according to Marc Topkin of The Tampa Bay Times.

He also said if a new stadium is not built, he wouldn't move the Rays out of the area but that he would sell the team. He said the new owner would relocate the franchise.

On Monday, it was reported that the Rays had received permission to explore the possibility of building a new stadium outside the city of St. Petersburg, where the team currently plays.

From the Tampa Bay Times:

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"I'm not leaving. I'm not moving this team. I'm not taking this team out of the area. But that's me,'' Sternberg said at baseball's winter meetings in San Diego. "The chances of me owning this team in 2023 if we don't have a new stadium are probably nil. Somebody else will take it and move it. It's not a threat, just the reality. I won't be sitting here 10 years from now waiting it out to move the team.''

The Rays and St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman have agreed to let the team search for potential sites in neighboring Hillsborough county, which includes the city of Tampa. Under the agreement, the Rays would pay St. Petersburg between $2 million and $4 million annually if the team leaves for a stadium in a different city before the lease at Tropicana Field expires in 2027.

Tropicana Field was opened in 1990 and has been the Rays' home field since they were formed in 1998. It is the only stadium in the league with a non-retractable roof and one of two stadiums with an artificial surface. 

The agreement stipulates that the Rays may only consider sites in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties and that the team must decide on a site before the end of 2017.

- Sarah Barshop and Dan Gartland