MLB commissioner says ‘now is the time’ for Rays Stadium fix

MLB commissioner says ‘now is the time’ for Rays Stadium fix

NEW YORK — Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred hasn’t quite started the clock on resolving the Rays’ ongoing pursuit of a new stadium in the Tampa Bay area before considering relocation options, but it seems to at least check the batteries.

“I think there’s urgency when it comes to Tampa Bay,” Manfred said Thursday after quarterly owners’ meetings. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there has to be a resolution in the Tampa Bay area for the Rays. Obviously, the end of this lease (at Tropicana Field after the 2027 season) is a deadline. But you have to take into account that stadiums take a bit of time to build, right?

“So we are getting to the point where, wherever it is in the region that has an interest in having 162 baseball games, they have to make it happen. Get with the club. I know the Rays are eager to do something. And see if a deal can be made.

After the league in January killed the Rays’ plans to pursue split seasons between new stadiums in Tampa Bay and Montreal, community and team leaders said they would resume conversations about finding a house for the full season on the market.

Five months has yielded no apparent significant progress, although St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch is pushing for the team to decide which side of the bay they want to be on by June 30.

“We remain optimistic about reaching an agreement with the Tampa Bay Rays regarding their future in St. Petersburg,” Welch said Thursday. “We renewed the city’s relationship with the team leaders and had several productive conversations.

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg hasn’t given much information on the status of the talks.

“We have worked and continue to work hard to keep baseball in Tampa Bay,” he said by email. “We speak regularly with Mayor Welch and appreciate his focus on keeping the Rays in St. Petersburg.”

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor declined to comment through a spokesperson.

Manfred said the focus remained on finding a solution in the Tampa Bay market, but acknowledged that at some point relocation would be considered.

“Right now my focus is on Tampa Bay,” he said. “I think a great man once said that all good things must come to an end at some point. Right now our focus is on Tampa Bay.

The Rays have been looking for a new stadium since 2007, looking for options in both St. Petersburg and Tampa without being able to reach a deal.

The A’s have also been looking for a new home for years. While the team is still talking to Oakland, team officials have been cleared to pursue an alternate option in Las Vegas, which Manfred says is a market MLB likes.

“(Oakland is) in the same category as Tampa Bay,” Manfred said. “We need a solution in these two markets. And the time has come for this solution.

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Manfred previously said MLB would not consider expanding to 32 more viable teams until the Rays and A stadium situations are resolved. This makes sense, as relocating one or both teams would include some of the markets that would be considered for expansion teams.

Also Thursday:

• Manfred said he was “encouraged by the results” of the use of the field clock in the minor leagues, but would allow the newly created competition committee (which includes players) to discuss and decide. a planned limit on defensive changes for next season, hoping for a resolution before spring training. He also said that the use of the automated strike zone was not considered for next season.

• The owners are concerned about the “reach” of local media options, and Manfred said there have been discussions that MLB “should enter the digital space in particular to provide fans with opportunities more numerous and more flexible to watch matches”. Doing it as direct-to-consumer streaming could clash with some of the regional sports networks, such as Bally Sports, which shows the Rays and plans to launch a similar service as early as this month.

Writers Colleen Wright and Charlie Frago contributed to this story.

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