MLB commissioner confident new St. Pete stadium will be boost for Rays

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said he is confident the Rays’ planned new stadium near the current Tropicana Field site will lead to increased support for the team.

Manfred, who previously expressed a preference for a Tampa site but acknowledged location wasn’t the only factor, said in a Sirius XM radio interview last week he trusts Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg’s decision to make a deal in St. Petersburg.

“I think Stu Sternberg is a very, very good businessman,” Manfred said at the World Series. “They’ve done a great job putting a great product on the field.

“He’s studied the situation down there. I understand the debate about Tampa and St. Pete, which side. St. Pete today is different than it was five years ago. And I really believe that if Stu’s prepared to commit to the deal in St. Pete, it’s going to be a good deal for baseball.”

Asked by host Chris Russo about support for the team given low attendance, specifically for the two wild-card playoff games (19,704 and 20,198, with midweek afternoon starts), Manfred said having the new stadium as part of the massive redevelopment of the Historic Gas Plant District should help.

“I think there is enthusiasm for baseball in the Tampa-St. Pete region,” Manfred said. “A lot of things go into the situation as it exists in St. Pete right now. It is an older facility. They have been in the playoffs a lot. You have different factors that kind of weigh in a particular year. I think this development will generate excitement and will increase fandom in the Tampa-St. Pete region.”

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