Pull back Stu Sternberg's sister city proposal

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We, the undersigned, do declare that the sister city proposal — put forth by the Tampa Bay Rays Principal Owner Stu Sternberg — is an untenable solution to the team’s stadium stalemate with the City of St. Petersburg. In our view, it must be pulled back in order to minimize any further negative impact on the loyal and enthusiastic fans of the ball-club.

Sternberg’s long shot proposal joins at least a half-dozen other major “non-threat threats” made over the last nine years. Noah Pransky, a former investigative reporter for WTSP 10 News, detailed five such “non-threat threats” extending back to June of 2010: 

June 2010 – Sternberg says the only way “for this asset to be preserved” is a new stadium, and if not, there are “five markets” that would be better homes for the team.
Oct. 2011 – Sternberg says MLB will “vaporize” the Rays within 9 -12 years without a new stadium (it hasn’t).
Jan. 2013 – Sternberg suggests to Hillsborough Co. commissioners the league would move or contract the team if a new stadium wasn’t built.
Dec. 2014 – Sternberg says the team is “doomed to leave” without a new stadium, he was done re-negotiating with St. Pete (alas, he wasn’t), and he’ll sell the team by 2023 if he doesn’t have a new stadium.
May 2016 – The Rays will have to leave Tampa Bay if businesses don’t step up and spend money on MLB.

Despite multiple opportunities to negotiate, in earnest, with officials on both sides of the bay, Sternberg has shown, time and again, that he is not serious about pursuing any fair-minded options for a new ballpark. Rather, he’s favored leverage building tactics that pit fan against fan and municipality against municipality — shutting down any real hope for a regional approach to the situation. Sternberg abandoned the team’s original plan to build a stadium on St. Petersburg’s waterfront before it could go to a referendum vote. He ignored a 2012 plan to build a stadium in the Carrilon area of north St. Petersburg. Furthermore, the plan to build in Ybor City was always a non-starter, as Hillsborough did not have money to fund the luxury car price tag associated with the $892-million concept, nor does the county have it now. 

And now, instead of sitting down with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and solving this unfortunate state of affairs, Sternberg championed a proposal that ignores the fact that Tampa Bay, the eleventh largest media market in the country, is a Major League market. As Pransky noted in a June 27, 2019 article:

“He (Sternberg) reportedly bought control of the team at a franchise valuation of $176-million, a bargain-basement price that was largely a result of poor attendance and the team’s contract handcuffing it to Tropicana Field. 

According to Forbes, the Rays are now worth more than $1 billion, appreciation of 380 percent at a time the Dow Jones average grew just 250 percent.” 

If Tampa Bay is not a Major League market, incapable of earning a consistent profit, then Sternberg must be compelled to open the books and show the financial lag that has affected the team.

This ludicrous proposal offers no return on investment for local fans and business partners alike, nor an incentive for casual fans to become the diehard fanatics our guys deserve. 

Why create a petition? The answer is simple. We are fans of the team, yet we are not being heard. Many in the local media appear to be more interested in helping Sternberg play the leverage game than they are holding him accountable by asking tough questions. In an ideal world, the viral nature of the internet will give us a volume that cannot be ignored.

“A savvy negotiator creates leverage,” Jerry Reinsdorf, former owner of the Chicago White Sox.

We in the area fought long and hard for a big league team. The irony is not lost on us that fans in another baseball-starved city, namely Montreal, are now being used as leverage much like we were in the late ’80s (Chicago White Sox stadium stalemate) and the early ’90s (San Francisco Giants stadium stalemate). 

In short, the current Rays ownership appears to have little to no sincere interest of investing in the future of this club in the Tampa Bay area. In the very least, the ownership group, which has held the team for fifteen years, should change its approach. At the end of the day, the team is no closer to having a new ballpark than it was when Sternberg took over the team. Ownership, committed to the future, is needed in Tampa Bay.