PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Stuart Sternberg said Tuesday he's pleased that the Rays have permission to look for the best site for a new ballpark in the Tampa Bay area. But the club's principal owner stressed that the organization needs improved corporate support in order to thrive.
Sternberg said the club is working diligently to identify the best possible location for a new ballpark while also canvassing local businesses to see how the Rays can receive more support. The Rays have played their home games at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg since their inaugural season in 1998.
"Does an organization, whether it's a five-person business or a 500-person business or a 5,000-person business, does their support change if we're eight miles away, 28 miles away or sitting right where we are but in a new facility?" Sternberg said.
Sternberg and his organization are doing everything they can to get the answers to those questions.
"There have been leaders on both sides of the bay who have stepped up, from the business side and the elected side, who are championing this and want to get involved with this," Sternberg said. "We look forward to working with both sides and everybody involved to see. The question we're going to ask is, you've got to show us there's real corporate business support out there that wants baseball here in the region and that it's meaningful. And what does it mean for a business?"
Sternberg said he understands the area doesn't have the historical connection to its team that some other markets have. But he does believe the team could draw better than the teams that rank in the bottom third of baseball, and said that would be "good enough."
Sternberg also addressed the prospects for the 2016 Rays by noting that he thinks his team has improved, but he also stressed that the rest of the American League East has as well.
As for the pending trip to Cuba to play an exhibition game -- which has not been formally approved yet -- he noted about such a visit: "At the end of the day, it can only be good for our franchise."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.