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Rays’ Sternberg: No urgency on stadium issue

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Published:   |   Updated: April 3, 2013 at 08:18 AM

Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg arrived at Tropicana Field on Tuesday morning and took time to answer a few questions about the season, expectations and, what else, the stadium issue:

Q: Do you have a prediction for this season?

Sternberg: “Meaningful games in the month of September. I never come past that. That’s my goal, that’s my hope, that’s my expectations.”

Q: What does Opening Day mean to you?

Sternberg: “It’s probably the one day that transcends the ownership of the team and goes back and speaks to me and my childhood and everything else, the bunting and everything. You sort of remember where you spent Opening Days over the years. A couple of times I missed school, so Opening Day is meaningful.”

Q: What do you feel about the state of the team?

Sternberg: “Real good. It’s possible I felt better last year and I was very concerned with the optimism. It feels a little strange because it’s not an all-consuming focus on the Yankees and Red Sox, so that’s a little odd even though we just always try to take care of our business, when you have your world get a little topsy turvy that finds it’s way to seep into my thinking a little bit.”

Q: How do you feel to see the Rays picked by some to get to and even win the World Series?

Sternberg: “Uneasy. Very uneasy. We play it better without the great expectations. I feel better without the expectations, and quite frankly as we saw last year in our own division we had a team that could have won 100 games won under 70 and another one that could have won under 70 beat us out of the playoffs, so it’s great stuff.”

Q: Any urgency with the stadium issue?

Sternberg: “It is not, because I understand the situation. The business leaders, politicians understand the situation. MLB understands. I think a couple few years ago it was still part of the learning process. We had a pretty good sense of where things were. A good deal of frustration is that other people didn’t get a sense of where everything stood. So now everybody is on level playing field as it is and we can just be concerned about playing ball and let us work on what we’re working on.”

Q: Is Major League Baseball running out of patience with the stadium/attendance issue?

Sternberg: “I have no real power over what MLB thinks or not. As by their comments they have been disappointed in the situation down here and other teams have struggled with attendance as well, other teams have had other issues. The one issue I think is just the amount of winning, the consistency of winning, the style of winning that we’ve done, that used to cure all ills, and maybe that something that’s seeping to sport as a whole, that it just isn’t the kind of scene it once was.”

Q: Is there a timetable for the new stadium?

Sternberg: “Whatever gets us there. I know we have X number of years here and every Opening Day that comes by and clicks off, this is my eighth Opening Day, so eight from now is 2021 and, you know.”

Q: Will the Rays still be playing at the Trop in eight years?

Sternberg: “I think if we started something tomorrow, by definition, you still have to get all the process in place, the money, you’re still looking at something five years, six years out. So we’re here for a good deal of time, we’re still making investments in the building. We expect to. We’re going to keep going until we can’t go no more.”

Q: How does that impact David Price’s future with the team?

Sternberg: “Certainly, if the revenue stream is higher it gives us the ability and the confidence to have a larger payroll. As it is right now we have a large payroll for us. It also happens to be one of the lowest in baseball. It’s unfortunate those two things intersect, but the most important thing is having success on the field and we’ve had a lot of success with a low payroll.”

Q: How does it fit in with Detroit’s Justin Verlander’s seven-year, $180 million extension that could be worth more than $200 million?

Sternberg: “He’s not the first and he won’t be the last. It’s nothing new. Evan (Longoria) is here at $100 million dollars and we have the desire, we have the ability to spend real money in the context in what the organization can afford.”

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