Manfred visits Trop, talks Rays' future in area

Manfred visits Trop, talks Rays' future in area

ST. PETERSBURG -- Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred visited Tropicana Field for Sunday's Rays season opener against the Blue Jays, making him the first commissioner to attend a home opener at Tropicana Field.

Manfred addressed reporters prior to the game, discussing the Rays' stadium situation and Rays owner Stu Sternberg's commitment to the area.

"I think the most important thing is Stu's palpable commitment to this market," Manfred said. "And as long as he's committed," the Commissioner added, "I think we, me and baseball will remain committed to the market.

Sternberg on 2016 Rays

"I also think that the market has great potential. Obviously, Florida is a growing state. Great broadcast potential. If they work through the existing arrangements and get a new deal, I remain hopeful that in Tampa Bay we will find a way to get a facility built that will improve the attendance for the club."

The Rays have gained permission to look around the Tampa Bay area for the best possible location to put a new stadium. Manfred was asked whether having the team relocate from St. Petersburg to Tampa would make the most sense.

"I think that the location of a stadium always can make a difference in terms of attendance," he said. "And I think the geography here would suggest that it's possible to have a stadium that would be more centrally located for the overall Tampa Bay metropolitan area."

Montreal hosted a weekend series between the Red Sox and Blue Jays that drew well. In response to questions about the possibility of relocation or expansion, Manfred said that Major League Baseball is always looking at potential areas for teams.

"Over time, and we're talking about a long period of time, growth businesses expand," Manfred said. "There's lots of advantages that would be associated from a schedule format perspective, for example, getting to 32 teams. There are markets out there that would like to have Major League Baseball. That's why we work with potential new markets.

"Sequentially, I think it's important for Tampa Bay and Oakland to get their facility situations resolved before we move into a real active consideration of expansion."

As for a timeframe to have the stadium situation resolved, Manfred downplayed the value of hard deadlines.

"We will remain committed to the process in Tampa Bay as long as Stuart believes it's the best alternative available to him," Manfred said.

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