Rays officially respond to Bill Foster, ask for amendment to current contract to pursue new stadium in Pinellas AND Hillsborough

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Responding to a letter from St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster asking for a meeting to discuss developer CityScape LLC’s proposal to build a new ballpark in the Carillon business park, Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg is asking for the current agreement between the ball club and the city be amended to allow the team to pursue new stadium options in both Hillsborough and Pinellas County.

“Since an evaluation of only one site would clearly be an incomplete and inconclusive exercise,” writes Sternberg, ” the Rays seek to collaborate with interested governmental and private parties to evaluate all potential ballpark sites in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.”

Sternberg attached to the letter a proposed amendment to the team’s lease at Tropicana Field. It seeks to lift the lease’s “prohibition to play home games at a facility other than Tropicana Field prior to 2027” and allow the Rays to engage in negotiations with parties in the Tampa Bay area regarding a new ballpark.

Sternberg’s request is meeting with positive reactions from officials in Pinellas and St. Petersburg.

City Councilman Karl Nurse described the request as a step forward. County Commissioner Ken Welch said Sternberg was being reasonable. “It’s time to engage in a meaningful conversation on the future of baseball in our community.”

Foster declined to comment Thursday until he had read the letter, according to Stephen Nohlgren of the Tampa Bay Times. Darryl LeClair, the developer behind CityScape, could not immediately be reached for comment.

As for the specific proposal made by CityScape, Sternberg only commits to making sure that the developers will be his “first call” once his proposed amendment is approved.

CityScape, which is affiliated with the prominent Echelon development firm, unveiled a plan two weeks ago to build a 35,000-seat stadium in the business park, along Ulmerton Road in St. Petersburg.

After that presentation, Foster — to his credit — made the first move by inviting the Tampa Bay Rays to chat and even going so far as to offer to fly to New York to meet with Rays officials.

“Perhaps one of the most frequently asked questions following the CityScape presentation is, ‘Where do we go from here,’ ” the mayor wrote.

If it up to Stu Sternberg, the answer to that question increasingly appears to be Hillsborough County.

The complete response from the Rays can be read below:

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.