Varying opinions on a suitable location range from the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds, to the Toytown landfill site. However, leaving the city of St. Petersburg certainly isn’t a foregone conclusion. In fact, Mayor Kriseman still contends that the best location for a new stadium happens to be, well…the current one.
I want to thank our City Council for approving this important Memorandum of Understanding with the Tampa Bay Rays, wrote Kriseman on his official Facebook page. This agreement is good news for baseball fans, for our taxpayers, for the city of St. Petersburg, and for our entire region. I still believe the team’s current site, reimagined and redeveloped, is the best place for a new stadium, and I look forward to making the case for the Sunshine City.
The team previously considered the construction of a new facility at Al Lang Stadium, along St. Petersburg’s waterfront. More recently, a proposal to construct a mixed use stadium in Carillon never gained traction. Yet with the current incentive laden proposal, both parties may be able to capitalize on the recent economic development in downtown St. Petersburg.
For his part, Rays Principal Owner Stu Sternberg ― who was once famously quoted as saying “Baseball will not work in downtown St Pete” ― spoke in a more conciliatory tone Thursday afternoon, conceding that the “pitch perfect” site, indeed, could be a mere 12 inches from Tropicana Field:
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) January 14, 2016
Major League Baseball released a statement, that acknowledged the work of all the parties involved, following the vote:
MLB appreciates this step forward taken by the St. Petersburg City Council and remains fully supportive of Stu Sternberg’s vision to bring this stadium process to conclusion. Mr. Sternberg’s patience and persistence throughout the franchise’s long-standing efforts have illustrated his commitment to the fans of the region. We look forward to further progress in the weeks and months ahead as the Rays strive to ensure the future of the franchise with a first-class ballpark in the region.
So, what’s next?
As I wrote earlier, for St. Petersburg, the focus will shift toward keeping the Rays within city limits. Mayor Kriseman will announce the formation of a Baseball Forever Campaign to include St. Petebased fans of the team, business leaders, and elected and government officials. The goal will be to pitch the city to the team by (in the words of Mayor Kriseman) “demonstrating future fan and corporate support and the many benefits of remaining on the current site, perhaps on the site’s eastern half closer to our bustling downtown and waterfront.”
On the other side of the bay, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan has already formed a committee of government and private sector leaders, and is hoping for the opportunity to sit down with Rays officials within a matter of weeks.
You can read the MOU in its entirety below.
We’ll continue to update things as the details unfold.