Mayor Bill Foster has (finally) responded to requests for more information about his “detailed” plan to keep the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg with a letter to the St. Petersburg Times. According to Michael Van Sickler:
In the letter, Foster strays from his St. Petersburg focus and calls his plan a strategy or method to keep the Rays “competitive in the Tampa Bay region.” He said it’s his strategy to protect the contract agreement that binds the team to Tropicana Field through the 2027 season.
Last summer, club owner Stu Sternberg asked the city to let the Rays explore stadium locations outside of Pinellas County, but the city refused.
Foster’s letter addresses speculation about comments he made during an Aug. 18 council meeting. He told the council he had a detailed plan “on what we can do to keep the Rays in the city of St. Petersburg.” While he said he had previously discussed the plan with council members, six of the eight members said afterward that they didn’t know what plan he was referencing.
An excerpt from Mayor Foster’s column:
My plan consists of three strategic elements: 1) ensuring that the legal integrity of the city’s agreement with the Rays is not compromised; 2) supporting private sector efforts to retain the Rays as a regional asset without compromising the city’s agreement with the Rays; and 3) continuing to support and promote the Rays as a professional sports franchise in west-central Florida.
At present, there is no plan by the city of St. Petersburg for the design and construction of a new baseball facility in Pinellas County, and no such discussions have occurred with the Rays since my becoming mayor. The city and the Rays are contractually obligated to Tropicana Field through 2027, and absent an addendum to this agreement, there can be no plan for a new facility. An addendum has been offered by the city to the Rays to allow the parties to explore viable sites in St. Petersburg and the Gateway area. The city is prepared, as part of its plan, to further its dialogue with the Rays so that such exploration and due diligence exercises can begin in the sunshine with our citizens fully informed.
I wrote earlier today that I am voting for Bill Foster for Worst Local Politician in Creative Loafing‘s Best of the Bay awards because he has spent his time in office doing less with more. He’s also the main obstacle to a regional solution to keep the Tampa Bay Rays in the bay area.