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The Tampa Bay Rays want to build a new ballpark. But if that doesn’t happen, the club has options.
According to The Athletic, at least one local businessman is looking to buy the franchise. And the Rays are also drawing interest from groups who would relocate the team to a new city.
The potential buyer is founder and CEO of DEX Imaging, Dan Doyle Jr. DEX is a Tampa company that sells office technology, like printers and copy machines. Before starting the company in 2002, Doyle was managing partner of a real estate development and holding company in St. Petersburg.
But Rays owner Stuart Sternberg says the team remains focused on building a $1.2 billion ballpark in either Tampa or St. Petersburg.
“I expect we will build a ballpark in Tampa Bay that will keep the Rays here for generations to come,” Stenberg said. “I also plan on remaining the Rays owner.”
Ideally, they’d build the brand new, 30,000-seat ballpark on the current site of Tropicana Field and develop the surrounding 86 acres. Earlier this year, St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch appointed a group to spearhead the redevelopment.
“I am fully confident that this decision is the best path forward for our city,” Welch said in January.
But building a new stadium in Tampa could also be tempting for the franchise, as the corporate base there is larger and population is growing.
Regardless, public funding for a stadium in the Tampa Bay Area is a major hurdle. Governor Ron DeSantis opposes using taxpayer dollars to build sports facilities for professional teams.
And a local buyer would face the same obstacle.
Relocation is another option for the Tampa Bay Rays.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred insists the league will not expand to 32 franchises until the Rays and Oakland Athletics resolve their ballpark issues.
The Athletics — the worst team in baseball — are eyeing a move to Las Vegas. The Rays — the best team in baseball — are much more attractive to investors.
But the fee for an expansion club is around $2.2 billion. The Rays would likely sell for less than that.
If the Rays were to relocate, Tampa-St. Petersburg would become a candidate for expansion.
So, as of right now, it all comes down to the Rays’ ability to secure funding for a new stadium.
And they’ll have to sort that out soon. The team’s lease expires at Tropicana Field after the 2027 season.