The city, well, alright, the media, has been far too preoccupied with what’s happening with the city’s pier and seems to have forgotten that there’s a looming issue still plaguing the mayor’s office.
When will there be a new deal reached between the mayor and the Tampa Bay Rays to allow the Major League Baseball franchise to look outside the city for a possible new stadium site?
The Rays’ home opener is Monday, April 6. St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman had said he hoped to have a deal squared away and ready for Council’s vote before the first pitch of the Rays’ 2015 home season was thrown out.
With that day less than two weeks away, one has to wonder if Kriseman’s got something up his sleeve.
The man has a lot on his plate.
He’s been gearing up for this weekend’s Firestone Grand Prix. That came complete with a glorious go-cart photo op in which he trounced Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn on the racetrack.
The very next day, the Pier Selection Committee threw a monkey wrench in the pier process by making it clear the committee favored a design the public didn’t so much like.
Now the main buzz is all about whether or not the committee, mayor and City Council will actually ignore three surveys showing overwhelming support for Destination St. Pete Pier and instead put the less-favorable Alma design in its top spot.
So, what about those Rays?
According to Kriseman’s communications director, Ben Kirby, there’s nothing new to report.
“At this point it’s really in City Council’s hands,” he said.
The mayor has spoken with them, they just haven’t responded, apparently.
It looks like the last time Kriseman spoke on the record about the Rays was in an omnibus interview with the Tampa Bay Business Journal earlier this month. Not a lot was revealed there. Kriseman reiterated his hope to have a deal nailed down prior to the start of the Rays’ season and emphasized that he’s “not afraid of letting them look.”
A day prior to that he announced plans to build a small baseball stadium complex at Walter Fuller Park in West St. Pete. When asked about the Rays, Kriseman wouldn’t say whether or not negotiations would continue into the season if a deal wasn’t struck by first pitch.
During that same press conference, Rays President Brian Auld just stood in the background smiling, not offering any clues as to what he was thinking.
Maybe it’s best folks are fixated on the pier. At least there’s something to speculate about.
At issue on the Rays front is a looming concern on the part of City Council that the city would have to split development revenue on the Tropicana Field site even if the team chose to pack its bags and dump St. Pete.
City Council rejected a previous agreement late last year.
In that agreement, the Rays would have had to pay the city about $20 million total – a sliding scale reducing each year for every year they played somewhere else until their contract is up in 2027.
Since then, City Council has approved a resolution saying they do, in fact, want the team to stay. That was called into question when they sent the mayor back to the negotiating table.
They also started the ball rolling on a plan to conduct an independent economic impact study looking at how much money the Rays being in St. Pete actually brings in for the city. This was prompted at the notion by city council member Steve Kornell that, perhaps, the money people currently spend on baseball would be spent doing some other form of entertainment in the city if the team packed up and left.
Also, in case you missed it because of all the shiny Pier debate, curbside recycling is also inching closer to St. Pete. Cans start going out to residential homes and multi-family dwellings with four units or less in May. Recycling pick-up starts in July.
City Council is also considering a wage theft ordinance that would make it easier for St. Pete residents to reclaim unpaid wages for which they are entitled.
But the pier, man.