NEW YORK — Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics need to reach new ballpark deals soon and left open the strong possibility of considering relocation if agreements are not struck.
“There is urgency with respect to Tampa,” Manfred said Thursday during a news conference following an owners meeting. “There needs to be a resolution in the Tampa Bay region for the Rays."
Tampa Bay’s lease at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, where the team has played since its inaugural season in 1998, expires after the 2027 season. The Rays said in January that MLB had rejected the team's plan to split its season between Florida and Montreal.
“Obviously, the end of that lease is a hard deadline, but you need to take into account that stadiums take a little bit of time to build, right?” Manfred said. "So we are getting to the point where wherever it is in the region that has an interest in having 162 baseball games, they need to get to it, get with the club — I know the Rays are anxious to get something done — and see if a deal can be made.”
Asked whether he was considering relocation, Manfred responded: “Right now, I’m focused on Tampa,” putting emphasis on “right now” and later adding he was referring to the region, not the specific side of the bay. “I think a great man once said, all good things must end at some point. And but right now we’re focused on Tampa.”
The Athletics have played at the Coliseum since 1968 and their lease expires after the 2024 season. The A's have proposed a new ballpark at Howard Terminal and are working with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf to gain the necessary approvals.
“There is really significant activity in Oakland. The political process has moved along significantly," Manfred said. “I met with Mayor Schaaf last week. She has done a really good job at moving the process forward in Oakland. But as you all know, California political processes are their own sort of animal. There’s work to do on the Oakland side. I think the A’s prudently have continued to pursue the Las Vegas alternative. We like Las Vegas as a market. Again, it’s in the same category as Tampa. We need a solution in both those markets and the time has come for that solution.”
Oakland has averaged a major league-low of 8,283 fans this season and the Rays are 25th at 13,740, also ahead of Miami, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.