NEW YORK — Six years after saying they wanted to explore alternative sites to downtown St. Petersburg for a new ballpark, the Tampa Bay Rays still are in search of a location.
“Tampa is obviously very, very attractive on the list, and we expect to at some point, hopefully sooner, look there as well as some other parts of the region,” Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said Tuesday during a panel at the MLB Diversity Business Summit.
Sternberg took control of the team after the 2005 season, and in November 2007 the Rays proposed to replace Tropicana Field with a 34,000-seat, open-air stadium at the downtown site of Al Lang Field, a longtime spring training ballpark. They withdrew that plan the next June, and Sternberg said in June 2010 he wanted to explore potential sites throughout the Tampa Bay area.
The Rays’ lease at Tropicana Field runs through 2027. Tampa Bay hasn’t drawn more than 2 million fans at home since its first season in 1998. Despite winning 90 or more games in each of the last four seasons, the Rays haven’t topped 1.6 million in any of the past three years.
“We haven’t had the greatest success in attracting the what we call enough fans relative to the success we’ve had on-field, and we would like to explore other parts of the region, specifically Tampa and parts of St. Petersburg,” Sternberg said.
He said the Rays need to undertake “a full-out exploration” of transportation and access issues.
“Until we’re able to do all the work that’s necessary there, I won’t really have an answer for it,” he said.