Stu Sternberg has stated it simply: without a new stadium, the Rays won’t be playing any baseball in Tampa Bay much longer.
It really isn’t any change from what’s the franchise owner been saying for the last decade, as he’s threatened in no fewer than a half-dozen different ways relocation if the region doesn’t help (read: $$$) build the Rays a new ballpark.
But today’s stance is a stark difference from what Sternberg told the editorial board for the then-St. Petersburg Times back in 2005, when he purchased majority ownership of the team:
“You will never — and I will say it now and hopefully I can say it and you’ll follow up — you will not hear the words, ‘We need to have a new stadium,’” Sternberg was quoted as saying by the Times. “We might like to have a new stadium. We can work with the authorities to have a new stadium and work with businesses to have a new stadium, but it won’t be from a sense of ‘need.’”
Well, Sternberg wanted someone to follow up …
So more than nine years after Sternberg started saying the Rays “need” a new stadium, it’s clear he made a miscalculation with his original promise.
Sternberg may have also made a slight business miscalculation, and every pro sports owner has the right to run his or her team as a business. But many fans would contend profits aren’t their responsibility.
Furthermore, from what we know about Major League Baseball’s business model — wildly-robust with lucrative broadcast and digital revenues — it would seem that Sternberg and other MLB owners are all making profits. We just don’t know that for a fact because none will agree to open their books to the public.
We also know the profits are flowing, because the value of Sternberg’s investment has skyrocketed.
He 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.
So, while Sternberg may have miscalculated his words in promising he wouldn’t demand a new stadium, it doesn’t seem he miscalculated his investment. And a guy who is that savvy with investments likely isn’t miscalculating much about his next business move, either.