…And here I thought I was going to be strapped for a story topic tonight.
St. Petersburg city leaders held a press conference at Tropicana Field on Tuesday, where they announced that they would publicly release the redevelopment proposals for the Tropicana Field site later that afternoon. The proposals included redevelopment plans both with and without a baseball stadium. Pretty innocuous stuff given that Mayor Rick Kriseman has trumpeted the redevelopment of the Trop site — with or without the Tampa Bay Rays — for the better part of six years. Yet, things got real interesting during the presser.
With Rays officials in attendance, Kriseman noted that the team asked for a larger percentage of revenue and more control of the redevelopment at the Trop site than the current use agreement entitles the team to. Put in the words of Danny Russell (DRaysBay), Kriseman blew up their spot. The team is currently entitled to 50 percent of the revenue of any development on that land before 2028, whether a stadium is involved or not.
The Rays contentious proposal includes complete control of 50 acres east of Booker Creek, and 100 percent of the redevelopment rights for that portion of the parcel, according to the Mayor. The team would also be entitled to 50 percent of the development rights on the 36 remaining acres.
The 50-acre parcel would include 14-acres of required parkland plus 10 or 11 acres for the stadium. That would leave about 25-acres of land for the team to develop any way it wanted. The team would seek additional funding from Pinellas County and other public funding sources to pay for the construction of a stadium.
Right now, they’re entitled to 50 percent of the proceeds and that’s with a full-time team in the city. And they’re proposing to take 100 percent of the proceeds for a large part of that land, and 50 percent for the rest of it. And that’s for a part-time team. … I can’t give them that. I just can’t.— Rick Kriseman
In short, the proposal would allow the team to own the majority of the Tropicana Field site without any financial compensation to the city or the taxpayers. The community would also hand over all control of 60 percent of the 86-acre site to an owner that is seeking to build a stadium with public subsidies for a part-time team … that is if you believe the sister city concept is more than just a leverage play.
Put another way, the team spent years smearing St. Petersburg as an unsuitable place for a new stadium, yet now the Rays want full control of 50-acres of the property they bemoaned for more than a decade.
Agreeing to the Rays’ proposal would also mean asking developers to resubmit proposals for the site since the city would control just 36-acres of the parcel.
It undermines the entire process of what we’ve been trying to do out there.— Rick Kriseman
Rays President Brian Auld pushed back on the idea that the proposal was a demand.
The proposal (Kriseman) referenced was a starting point. It was meant to initiate a discussion, not a take-it-or-leave-it. Not a we-have-to-have-complete-control of the land. We said, ‘This is our vision, we want to work together to make sure we both agree this is a good plan for the future.’ And we need the county, the (city) council, the community, the African American community, we need all of them at the table, too. But here’s a way we might be able to afford a ballpark and get this thing going.— Brian Auld
Rays Principal Owner Stu Sternberg mirrored Auld’s comments, saying the “proposal was just that: A proposal.”
We thought it would be a beginning point to get things moving along. We’ll leave it to private discussions and we look forward to being here for generations to come.— Stu Sternberg
As you can imagine, the initial reactions to the news ranged from well thought out, to hyperbolic, and finally to flat out ridiculous. And many of the hot takes came from people who were too lazy to read beyond the story’s lede on any given outlet. While some lauded the mayor for publicly rebuffing the proposal, others demonized Kriseman for negotiating through the media, something he previously stated he would not do.
If I may interject my opinion on this.
First off, to all of you that said St. Petersburg is not a viable option for a stadium, tell that to the Rays’ brass who continue to engage with Mayor Kriseman and the City Council. This despite the fact that — for better or worse — the mayor publicly blew up the spot.
Secondly, I don’t think negotiating through the media is the best tactic for either side. The stakeholders — the team, the Mayor, and the City Council — should all be invested in these conversations, and there is a need for secrecy given the number of external entities wanting to snatch the team from the Sunshine City. On the other hand, since we are talking about publicly-owned property, the citizens of Pinellas County should be informed every step of the way. Clearly, things are broken if the best strategy utilized by either side is to use the media to get their point across. For what it’s worth, while two wrongs don’t make a right, it should be remembered that Sternberg set the precedent for negotiating through the media back in 2007 when the Rays initially sought a new stadium at the Al Lang Field site. He has continued to publicly hurl threat after threat through the media. Apparently what’s good for the goose isn’t for the gander.
For those of you that were shocked by the Mayor’s methodology in how he addressed the team’s latest gambit, I’d remind you that Sternberg has regularly approached the situation similarly for the last decade-plus, which speaks to the point I made above. It’s neither shocking nor surprising.
Finally, what should not be lost on anyone, appropriate response or otherwise, is that a multi-millionaire is seeking 50 acres of land and 100% of the redevelopment rights — plus 50% of the redevelopment rights for the remainder of the parcel — for the purchase price of zero…nada…nothing. Of course, you would be a fool if you did not expect the team to attempt to extract more money from the city, thus sweetening their pot. But, just because it was expected doesn’t mean it should be blown off and ignored in lieu of the bad man who said some words. If you’re more concerned about the tenor of the Mayor’s response, as opposed to the team’s unreasonable ask, I’d question your decency. If, on the contrary, you think the proposal was reasonable, here’s a quick activity. Stand up, head toward your front door, and walk toward your neighbor’s yard. Knock on their door and ask if you could have 60% of their property to open up an unspecified business. After that, kindly tell them that they are entitled to none of the profits even though they were never compensated for their land. I’m sure that would go over well.