ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA/AP) — Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said on Thursday the time has come for the Tampa Bay Rays to reach a stadium resolution.
He also left open the possibility of considering relocation if an agreements is not struck.
“There is urgency with respect to Tampa,” Manfred said Thursday during a news conference following an owners meeting. “There needs to be a resolution in the Tampa Bay region for the Rays.”
Tampa Bay’s lease at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, where the team has played since its inaugural season in 1998, expires after the 2027 season. The Rays said in January that MLB had rejected the team’s plan to split its season between Florida and Montreal.
“Obviously, the end of that lease is a hard deadline, but you need to take into account that stadiums take a little bit of time to build, right?” Manfred said. “So we are getting to the point where wherever it is in the region that has an interest in having 162 baseball games, they need to get to it, get with the club — I know the Rays are anxious to get something done — and see if a deal can be made.”
St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch has set June 30 as the date he will announce the next step in the Trop redevelopment process. He’s also expressed support for keeping the Rays in his city.
“We remain optimistic about reaching a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays regarding their future in St. Petersburg,” Mayor Welch told News Channel 8 in a statement. “We have renewed the city’s relationship with team leaders and have had several productive conversations.”
Some Rays fans, like Press Box bartender Jennifer Weiderrecht, say the team would be better off playing their home games in Hillsborough County.
“I would love to see them somewhere near Downtown Tampa or in Ybor,” Weiderrecht said.
A move across the bay, by some calculations, would put a million more people within a half-hour drive of the ballpark.
“It would be nice to have it a little closer – more access to 75, 275, I-4 is a lot more convenient,” Weiderrecht said. “There’s a lot more accessible ways in.”
Asked whether he was considering relocation, Manfred responded: “Right now, I’m focused on Tampa,” putting emphasis on “right now” and later adding he was referring to the region, not the specific side of the bay. “I think a great man once said, all good things must end at some point. And but right now we’re focused on Tampa.”
The Rays organization had no comment in response to Commissioner Manfred’s remarks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.