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Joe Henderson: Stuart Sternberg casts ominous tone about Rays stadium

“I think I probably would have pushed Hillsborough (officials) a little bit harder sooner.”

Mark this day and remember a statement by Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg about the collapse of stadium talks in Hillsborough County.

The Tampa Bay Times reported Sternberg said, “I think I probably would have pushed Hillsborough (officials) a little bit harder sooner.”

There you have it, citizens.

Sternberg just told everyone how the Rays and Major League Baseball stand on this issue. They don’t appear interested in working with the city and county as a partner would or should.

He should have pushed Hillsborough harder?

My goodness. The opposite should have happened. The amount of money the Rays were willing to pay for the estimated $892 million Ybor City stadium was always a moving target. And every time it moved, the amount taxpayers were expected to finance seemed to grow.

It was like negotiating with a phantom.

That phantom also believes the region will pay whatever is necessary to keep it here, but I think that’s a miscalculation.

But I wouldn’t be celebrating too much in St. Petersburg, either, because it’s not like he gave that city a ringing endorsement.

“I think the support part of it (in St. Petersburg) is much more important than the funding part, but the funding part is incredibly important,” the Times reported Sternberg said. “If we had 30,000-35,000 walking through the door every night, and we had naming rights, and we had big sponsors, the funding would be a layup.

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“But if we continue to have 8,000, 12,000, 15,000 a night and not expand our sponsorship roles, it could be all the funding in the world and it’s meaningless.”

That issue may ultimately sink MLB in this market because the Rays will never agree with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s idea for a new stadium on the site where Tropicana Field sits. Also, sponsors won’t invest the kind of money it would take to advertise their products in front of empty seats.

Get real.

The shine of a new ballpark will wear off quickly and Hillsborough people will decide the drive is too long. It has been that way for the 21 years the Rays have been here.

Baseball generates $10 billion a year, and the average player salary last year was $4.52 million. That’s the other side of this story because people driving Kias shouldn’t be expected to pay for someone else’s new Jaguar.

Any elected official is committing political suicide by voting for the kind of sweetheart deal Sternberg apparently expects. That’s true on either side of the bay. And by the way, just because the talks in Hillsborough collapsed doesn’t mean they can’t pick up again. I wouldn’t do it under these conditions, though.

I love baseball and the Rays definitely make life better here. But I also don’t want my grandkids stuck paying for a billion-dollar playpen.

He should have pushed Hillsborough harder?

Maybe Hillsborough and everyone else should push back.

Written By

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Dan McAuliffe, Michael Moline, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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