ST. PETERSRBUG — Tampa Bay Rays principle owner Stuart Sternberg met Tuesday at Tropicana Field with Mayor Rick Kriseman to discuss several topics, most unrelated to the team's quest for a new stadium site.
“There was not much discussion specific to the stadium,” Sternberg said Wednesday afternoon.
The Rays would like to look for a stadium site in Tampa, but the Tropicana Field contract, which runs through 2027, prohibits them from doing so. The team is optimistic Kriseman, who took office Jan. 2, will allow them the opportunity to look throughout the region, including Tampa.
Sternberg said the meeting was informal.
“Mostly me asking questions and expressing confidence in the city and asking how things were going the first month and a half and him wanting to know what he and the city can do to help us,” Sternberg said, “because we're a big part of the city and the region and what they can do to help us along.
“It was just more bigger picture, and I reiterated the support we'd like to give to help things. He seems to recognize what a big part (of St. Petersburg) we are. I think we're going to have a great relationship going forward, and we agreed to keep our discussions between each other private. I've done that in the past as well. I don't divulge, and I've said in the past I won't get into what I say to people in private.
“I'm optimistic in his leadership, and I would expect at some point this year we'll both have a better understanding of where things are headed in the future.”
The meeting, Kriseman's first with Sternberg since being sworn into office, was scheduled hastily and coincided with the Rays' owner visiting Port Charlotte for spring training events. No further talks have been scheduled, said Ben Kirby, city communications director.
“Mayor Kriseman and Rays leadership met on Tuesday to discuss the future of baseball in St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay area,” said a statement from the city. “Both parties agreed that such talks, based on mutual trust and respect, should remain private and not distract from what is sure to be another exciting season of Rays baseball.”
City leaders want to keep the team in St. Petersburg and also protect taxpayers' investment in Tropicana Field, where the Rays have dealt with low attendance despite having one of baseball's more successful teams in recent years.
Talks held last year between Sternberg and former Mayor Bill Foster stalled because of the team's position that it need not pay the city compensation if it leaves the stadium before the contract expires, according to two city council members.
During his successful election campaign, Kriseman claimed owners of the Rays had lost faith in Foster and that he would fare better in negotiations with the team.