Every year, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times sits down with Rays owner Stu Sternberg for a “State of the Rays” interview. There are usually some questions about the direction of the team, recent acquisitions, players who have recently moved on, a vague update on the stadium, and sometimes a question about food or music.
Although this year’s interview did not have a food or music question, it was much of the same.
Of course, Topkin didn’t ask Sternberg about his out-of-state residency or the fact that opinion of Rays ownership has plummeted according to ESPN. He also didn’t ask about Sternberg’s rationale behind being the only MLB owner to oppose the new collective bargaining agreement. Follow up on that issue might have been nice.
Topkin’s interview did have some interesting quotes by Sternberg.
I have to give it to the Rays. No matter how many other sports teams expand or ask for funds in Tampa or in St Petersburg, the Rays never go on the offensive at the local level. Case in point, Sternberg does mention the Rowdies growth plans, but mentions the Rays will proceed regardless.
I will have more on this in a later post, but St Pete is not big enough for both an MLS Rowdies and the Rays, despite what Mayor Kriseman thinks.
Sternberg discussed the Rays cable deal, which greatly needs to be renegotiated. Unfortunately, he says it won’t happen until 2019, but then say it could be month. Not sure what that answer meant.
Buried towards the bottom were two very key points:
According to Sternberg, the Rays have not turned a profit since 2005. This includes their subsidy from MLB due to revenue sharing. Yes, the value of the team has skyrocketed – this is probably why Sternberg doesn’t want to sell – but the team is not financially stable with its current operations. It is not “killing what it eats”. It is relying on outside funding or future returns to gain leverage. That’s not a good way to do business.
The Rays may need to be more creative in how they make money.
The last but perhaps most interesting point for this site was Sternberg’s assessment that attendance will be flat this year and probably similar to last year’s 1.2 million. This is surprising. Have the Rays admitted 1.2 million is the new reality? From 2011 to 2013, the Rays averaged 1.5 million. Why is that number unattainable currently? Another 300,000 on top of 1.5 million would equal the Rays 1.8 million attendance reached during their World Series year.
But again, why isn’t 1.5 million a realistic number? What changed after 2013 that altered ownership’s expectations?
These are the type of questions Marc Topkin should be asking.