Saturday, April 7, 2012

More Stu on Opening Day

Rays owner Stu Sternberg held court before Friday's first pitch of the season at The Trop and there's lots of ways to interpret his comments...but here is the correct way:
"I think the ball is rolling (on a stadium search)...It's a huge boulder, but it's moving. The nice thing is it's not static, it's not going backwards, and you've got people on both sides of the Bay, business people, working on it."
Sternberg knows how long and painful the process is going to be (see: June '09 story)...and he has accepted it.
"The political people, they come, they go. I'm into my second (Tampa) mayor now. Business people on both sides recognize they need to get involved a little bit. We'll keep doing our part."
He may get frustrated by the political posturing, but at least his fellow CEO-types understand.
"The M.O. up to this point in our sport and every other sport is that winning cures the ills...We're in brave new ground, where winning hasn't cured the ills, so to speak. If people don't come out, I need to know the reason why not."
It's been almost two years since Sternberg said Downtown St. Pete was too remote of a location for the Rays (and almost three years since I wrote it). So he knows why people aren't coming; you could even argue he's contributed to the problem, not helped. However, for what it's worth, the Rays have contributed serious dough toward an effort to improve transit in Tampa Bay.
"I like my stadium...We put $30 million bucks into this place. I love the place. I would challenge anyone to come in here and say it's not a great experience. It's not an ideal experience, but something is keeping people from coming in."
He's frustrated. For good reason.
"(MLB)are getting less tolerant as time goes by, but I don't think (the Rays will relocated)...It could turn out that way, but I don't envision it that way. A lot of it comes down to business. We have some great corporate supporters, but we don't have enough corporate support."
Tampa Bay's corporate problem was first identified by the ABC Coalition in 2009 but could be improved if the stadium was closer to Downtown Tampa.
"We have a good amount of individual support and our core fans are tremendous. We're not even in the ballpark, relative to what's necessary corporate-wise to support this franchise."
Sternberg wants to make more profits - any baseball owner does - and a new stadium is his best opportunity for that. Nevermind the fact that Forbes indicates the Rays have been one of the most profitable teams the last five years. And nevermind the fact that the Rays have yet to actually prove their financial struggles. Sternberg and Rays fans alike are sick of seeing their team at the bottom of league standings when it comes to attendance and payroll and a new stadium is their preferred method of improving both indicators.

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