Sternberg visits, talks about stadium issue

Sternberg visits, talks about stadium issue

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Stuart Sternberg was in camp on Thursday, allowing the Rays principal owner to speak with reporters after addressing a contingent of Rays employees seated inside Charlotte Sports Park.

Besides what is happening on the field for the Rays, what's happening in regard to plans for a possible new stadium remained the focus.

"At some point or other we're going to get this right," Sternberg said. "And I want it to happen sooner for the benefit of the citizens of St. Petersburg. For the benefit of our fans throughout the region. For the benefit of Major League Baseball. And really, so we can take the focus off of my organization, so we can do 100 percent of what we need to, which is to build a fan base. Not have to answer these questions. Build a fan base. Not have to have people scared and worried. Build a fan base and know that we're going to be here for 50 or 60 years."

The Rays continue to seek the city of St. Petersburg's permission to explore possible sites for a new stadium. The Rays' lease at Tropicana Field runs through 2027.

"There's not anybody currently, and I can't imagine anybody, more committed to trying and having this happen here in the Tampa Bay region," Sternberg said. "And I've been clear with my words and the way we've walked our walk all the way."

Sternberg allowed that a new location and stadium might not prove to be the answer for making the club a bigger draw and more financially competitive. But it's clear that he hopes to have the chance to make the Rays work in the Tampa Bay area.

"We might find out that it's impossible and it can't be done, and there's no place that works," Sternberg said. "I personally believe it can. I personally believe that there's a location that works dramatically better than where we are, whether it's 10 feet away or 12 miles away.

"And I think we'd like to do the work to find out what kind of corporate support we'd get in a new environment, what kind of individual support we'd get in a new environment, and then we'd understand what the future of this franchise is."

Will the Rays eventually have a new ballpark? Sternberg smiled at the prospect.

"I know we'll be sitting in a new ballpark," he said. "But whether it's going to be 12 years or seven years [from now] remains to be seen."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.