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Rick Kriseman sends new Rays deal to City Council

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman has provided City Council an updated Memorandum of Understanding with the Tampa Bay Rays that meant to allow the team to explore new stadium opportunities in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties.

The new agreement addresses a concern brought up in the December meeting last year in which council rejected 5-3 the Mayor’s previous MOU. Council member Karl Nurse pointed out that should the Rays decide to leave Tropicana Field and/or St. Pete, they would still be entitled to half of any revenue resulting from development on the Tropicana Field site.

Under the new MOU, the Rays would waive that entitlement upon execution of a termination agreement.

“If, after site evaluations, the Rays decide to remain in St. Petersburg, until such time as a new use agreement has been executed with the Rays, the terms of the current agreement relating to development rights would remain in force. A termination agreement will only be executed if the Rays leave St. Petersburg for another location in Hillsborough or Pinellas County,” Kriseman explained in a memo to City Council.

The new MOU contains the same monetary reimbursements for the city should the team decide to terminate its lease agreement with the city to play baseball in Tropicana Field through 2027.

That payout would be $4 million a year through 2018, $3 million a year from 2019 until the end of 2022 and $2 million a year through 2026. The team would not have to pay a fee to the city for breaking its contract during its final year, 2027.

The updated agreement also adds language that compels the Rays to include St. Petersburg in its stadium evaluation and search. It requires the baseball club to provide the city with a “process and criteria” for evaluating potential future stadium sites within 60-days of execution of the agreement and requires the team to provide a report on “the status of its evaluation of potential future stadium sites in St. Petersburg.”

“I believe that failing to support this MOU will almost certainly assure that the team will likely leave St. Petersburg and the region,” Kriseman wrote. “It will mean that the City will have to wait at least 12 years to redevelop 85 acres. Failing to support this means that should we move forward with redevelopment of a portion of the site prior to the end of the use agreement, we will be required to split half of all proceeds – tens of millions of dollars – with the team.”

It’s not clear when or if council will consider the MOU in a meeting. Council Chair Charlie Gerdes who is on vacation previously told Fox 13 that he would consider that on Monday after carefully reviewing the latest agreement.

In previous interviews with some of the council members who voted no, it’s not clear whether Kriseman will gain the two additional “yes” votes needed to approve the MOU.

“If there’s not a substantial increase to the amount of compensation to the city, I will still be a no,” council member Steve Kornell told SaintPetersblog on Wednesday. “I never said it was all based on just the development rights.”

“I’m still a no,” councilman Bill Dudley told FOX 13 News Thursday.

And Council member Amy Foster wouldn’t say for sure how she’d vote but that the retention of development rights does help.

The other no-votes in December were council members Jim Kennedy and Wengay Newton.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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