Rays owner offers big investment for new stadium

Just two days into the season and Tampa Bay Rays are making headlines off the field, with owner Stuart Sternberg indicating he'd be willing to invest a lot more money into a new stadium if the conditions are right.

Prior to Opening Day, Sternberg told reporters he'd consider investing as much as $400 million dollars to build a stadium in Tampa if a corporation is willing to agree to a massive naming-rights deal. That's a lot more than the $150 million he initially said he's chip in.

The example Sternberg used is the deal the New York Mets made with Citigroup, which is paying $25 million a year for the naming rights to Citi Field.

"If somebody wants to walk in and do 25-million dollars a year naming rights tomorrow, my number of 150 goes up dramatically," Sternberg said. "Give me 25-million a year to name a stadium and I'll be at 400. I'll go halfsies."

A new stadium is expected to cost at least $800 million, although Sternberg said that price will likely go up as more time passes.

The Rays owner said the team's actual financial contribution to a new stadium will likely end up somewhere in between $150 and $400 million. The rest of the funding would have to come from a complex financing package that would include a lot of corporate dollars.

Earlier this year, Sternberg and Hillsborough County leaders indicated their preferred location for a new stadium is an area near Ybor City.

Hillsborough County commissioners and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn have said they do not want to raise taxes to build a stadium in Tampa.

"[Financing] will be the largest issue. But that has yet to be determined," Sternberg said. "Over the next three, six, nine months, we'll get a really good sense of what's there and then we'll be able to adjust our contribution."

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The Atlanta Braves new stadium, which opened in 2017, is receiving about $10 million a year from Sun Trust for naming rights. Tropicana is currently paying $1.5 million to have its name on the Rays' current home at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

Sternberg said he expects the team to continue playing at the Trop for at least four or five more years.