- May 23, 2023
Stu Sternberg, principal owner of the Tampa Bay Rays, is disputing a Sunday report in The Athletic that he’s in discussions to possibly sell the team to either a local buyer or one who will move the team out of the region.
“I expect we will build a ballpark in Tampa Bay that will keep the Rays here for generations to come,” Sternberg said in an emailed statement to the Business Observer on Sunday afternoon.
“I also plan on remaining the Rays owner.”
Sternberg’s statement came after The Athletic, a prominent sports website owned by The New York Times, published a story saying Dan Doyle Jr., CEO of Dex Imaging in Tampa, was interested in buying the team from Sternberg. The story also reported the team has seen interests from buyers looking to relocate the Rays.
According to The Athletic, the information in the story came from sources “briefed on the discussions who were granted anonymity so they could speak candidly.”
The Business Observer reached out to the Rays and Dex Imaging officials after The Athletic story was posted. Multiple other sports outlets picked up The Athletic story as the Rays, owners of the best record in baseball at 34-14, played the Milwaukee Brewers Sunday afternoon.
In an email to the Business Observer, Dex’s chief marketing officer Nancy Lycan said, “We have no comment at this time.”
The report in The Athletic comes as the team continues long-running talks to get a new stadium built either in St. Petersburg or Tampa. These are discussions that have been going on for a few years and, at times, have raised the question of whether the team would fare better economically outside of Tampa Bay.
At one point, Sternberg heavily promoted and all but committed to a plan for the team to divide its season between Tampa and St. Petersburg and Montreal. The plan was scuttled when Major League Baseball’s executive committee shut it down Jan. 20, 2022.
Sternberg, at the time, called the decision “flat out deflating.”
Before that, plans for an $892 million stadium in Ybor City failed, in 2018.
Since the end of the potential Montreal experiment, the team and both Tampa and St. Petersburg have been working behind the scenes to come up with a deal to build a new stadium before the Rays' current lease for Tropicana Field expires at the end of the 2027 season.
The prospects seemed to have increased for it to be in St. Petersburg after Mayor Ken Welch chose the team and its development partner Hines to lead the redevelopment of the 86-acre Tropicana Field site in the city’s downtown Historic Gas Plant District.
Many saw the mayor’s choice as a near-guarantee that the city would keep the team. But Rays officials have continued talking to Tampa about building a stadium as well.
Money is obviously a major sticking point, with the cost of a domed stadium with a retractable roof said to be about $1 billion, meaning that some public money would be required to make a new stadium a reality. City and Pinellas County leaders have previously said they support using bed tax collection to help fund a new stadium.
According to The Athletic story — and Sternberg’s statement to the Business Observer — the owner prefers to keep the team in the area and, this should come as no surprise, “is in talks with potential investors and other sources of capital that would help fund the project"
But as anyone who has followed this story over the years knows, there is always a twist.
Earlier this month, a group out of Orlando led by the founder of the city’s NBA team the Orlando Magic proposed a $1.7 billion baseball stadium for the Rays. The stadium, according to reports, would be built along International Drive and paid for in part with funds from the Orange County Tourist Development Tax.