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Could the opposition to the Rays’ stadium search be softening?

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Could the city and the Tampa Bay Rays finally break their logjam in discussions for a new stadium?

And, if so, what would it mean to a baseball fan in St. Petersburg?

According to the Tampa Bay Times, two members of the council have softened their opposition to allowing the Rays to look in Hillsborough County going into next week’s special meeting about the future of the team.

Council members Steve Kornell and Jim Kennedy are considering adjusting their stances on the team and its lease that carries through the 2027 season.

The team and the city has have long had an impasse. The team would like to look outside of St. Petersburg, but the council has insisted that if it does break its lease, it should get compensation. In May, Kornell said that figure was $55 million, although he has said that number was not ironclad. The plan of council member Charlie Gerdes is $1.4 million a year until the team vacates the stadium and $2.5 a year afterward.

Tampa Bay Rays fans may grow weary of hearing about the impasse, but if baseball is to remain in the area, it seems inevitable. The Rays have constantly been near the bottom (they were last again this year) in attendance. The team seems to believe it would be better with a new stadium in Tampa.

The baseball fan in Tampa Bay has long been on the outside of such negotiations, and as a result, has been subject to speculation about outside cities such as Montreal. While it’s always hard to adjust to going to a new site, that seems preferable to the eventuality of losing a team.

No matter on which side of the Bay the Rays end up, team owner Stuart Sternberg has insisted on looking on the East side first. It remains to be seen if the Rays can find a plot of land they like and the money to finance a new stadium on either side.

The deal seems to be accelerated by the flirtation with the Atlanta Braves, who want a new spring training site at Toytown, which would divert funding from a possible Rays’ stadium. The Toytown discussions also have time parameters, however, which could accelerate conversations with the Rays.

However, Mayor Rick Kriseman spoke of caution with the amount of money the council members requested and the number of voices speaking to the team.

“The Rays have made it very clear that in any proposal they receive, if the terms are better (for St. Petersburg) than what was on the table last time, they’re not going to even consider it,” Kriseman told the Times. “That said that last deal was as good as it was going to get. They also have indicated that they don’t want to negotiate with eight people. That’s typically what the job of mayor is.”

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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