Mitch Perry Report for 12.9.14 – Finally, a breakthrough on the Rays stadium situation

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This morning St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has scheduled a news conference with officials from the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field to discuss the details of an agreement reached between the city and the Rays. That agreement will allow the team to go outside the city to search for new stadium sites in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

We don’t have a clue, of course, about where the Rays may ultimately land, but even allowing them to negotiate with officials in Tampa has been a herculean effort — and the failure of the two parties to come to an agreement certainly played a part in Kriseman defeating Bill Foster a year ago.

The issue will be voted on by the City Council on Thursday.

The Tampa Bay Times had a thorough story on Sunday on something that anybody paying attention to this story now realizes — that the best option for a ballpark in Tampa has gone away, with Channelside developer Jeff Vinik choosing to bring a USF medical school to the downtown area that he now controls. There are other places in Tampa that could work — but no obvious sites.

And oh yeah. How is this going to be funded?

But first things first. For all we know (and surely most everyone in St. Pete hopes for), the Rays may end up staying in Pinellas County, if not actually back in St. Petersburg.  Stu Sternberg has made it clear that the future of the Rays is not in downtown St. Pete. Whether Tampa will be the best destination for his club? It’s a helluva lot better than Orlando, or Charlotte — not that it’s the 1980s or ’90s and all sorts of cities across the country (including St. Pete) were clamoring for a baseball franchise. The only city in North America that seems serious about trying to woo the Rays is Montreal, the last Major League Baseball city that lost a franchise a decade ago.

The bottom line remains the fact that the Rays have had the worst attendance in baseball for years, at the same time they’ve been one of the model franchises in the league in terms of success on the field under limited resources. For whatever reason, people in Tampa Bay are not going to Tropicana Field.  Something’s gotta change, and the agreement that Kriseman announces today is the first concrete step in the past six years that gets us closer to that change.

In other news..

The race for the next chair of the Hillsborough County Democratic party chair has taken a different path, now that front-runner Tim Heberlein has dropped out of contention.

The Democratic-aligned group American Bridge is getting a jump on some talking points to be used against many of the purported candidates for the Republican nomination for president with the release of its document, and revives some juicy details lurking in Marco Rubio’s background.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio convened a one-day summit on immigration with 20 other Democratic mayors. Bob Buckhorn was invited but didn’t make the trip — but he says he’s fully behind President Obama’s executive orders to shield up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.

And Joe Citro is running again for Tampa City Council. Can the third time be the charm?

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at