On Thursday, the Tampa Bay Rays rejected an offer from the city of St. Petersburg that would have allowed the team to search for a new stadium site regionally in exchange for an exit fee.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman met with Rays officials, including president Brian Auld, for an hourlong meeting at Tropicana Field, where he discussed the deal which passed city council approval a week ago.
Drafted by council member Jim Kennedy, the plan would require the team to pay around $33 million if it left in 2020, however, that price tag would drop by half if the Rays stayed in Pinellas County. The team wouldn’t be on the hook for anything if they came to an agreement on a new stadium location in St. Petersburg.
Kriseman’s spokesman, Ben Kirby released a statement following the meeting:
Mayor Kriseman is disappointed but not surprised that the Tampa Bay Rays are not in agreement with City Council’s proposal. The mayor will continue to work with the leadership of the Tampa Bay Rays and our City Council to find common ground and resolve this issue. Mayor Kriseman is dedicated to keeping the Tampa Bay Rays in the city of St. Petersburg in the long term.
Moments later, Auld issued a statement on the Rays behalf:
Although we appreciate the time and attention that Mayor Kriseman and the City Council have dedicated to this issue, we do not agree to this proposal. We remain open to pursuing a cooperative path forward.
While Thursday’s outcome is disappointing to some, that the team rejected the offer is not shocking in the least. Council member Charlie Gerdes, who also drafted a counter-offer, said he wasn’t surprised by the end result, however, it was good news that the two sides were talking again. Noah Pransky (Shadow of the Stadium) also pointed out that Auld’s statement was rather quick, and questioned if it may have been pre-planned.
What happens next? Pransky offered his take:
So now, we’ll all wait until Tuesday’s city election to see which candidates are elected to council. If the Rays’ preferred choice, Lisa Wheeler-Brown, doesn’t beat Will Newton, the team may be forced to negotiate with less leverage than it’s ever had before.
If Wheeler-Brown wins, St. Pete council will get yet another “last chance” to save the ballclub that’s locked into a stadium contract for 12 more years.