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Rays reject latest stadium proposal

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Coming as little surprise to just about anyone who’s following along, the Tampa Bay Rays rejected the latest proposal to allow the team to look outside of St. Petersburg for a new stadium site.

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman met with Rays leadership Thursday afternoon to discuss a deal pre-approved by St. Pete City Council that would have required the Rays to fork over $33 million if they chose to leave Tropicana Field by 2020 to play in Hillsborough County.

“I can’t say I’m surprised by an outcome,” Kriseman said outside Tropicana Field Thursday. “I’m still committed to doing everything I can to try to keep the team here in St. Petersburg.”

He said he will continue to have discussions the teams to try to reach a deal.

The latest effort to reach an agreement came as a result of a plan laid out by St. Pete City Council member Jim Kennedy that would require the team to pay $4 million each year the team plays ball outside St. Pete through the life of its use agreement. That runs through the 2027 season.

Kennedy’s request is more than double a previous deal reached by Kriseman and the team that would have required $16 million in payout under the same timeline.

During City Council deliberations on the Kennedy plan last week Kriseman said he’d take the deal to the team, but made it clear he wasn’t holding his breath. He explained that as time goes on, deals don’t typically get better.

The Rays also had previously said they would not agree to any plan that required more compensation than previously approved.

City Council was deadlocked in a 4-4 vote over that deal.

A third deal may resurface now that the Rays have rejected Kennedy’s plan. Another deal worked out by City Council Chairman Charlie Gerdes still asks for more compensation than Kriseman’s deal, but far less than Kennedy’s plan.

Under Gerdes’ plan, the Rays would have to pay out $22 million.

The issue has been looming nearly a decade, but has become urgent because money available for a new stadium possibly in St. Petersburg or Pinellas County could be used for a different baseball facility.

The Atlanta Braves are interested in building a Spring Training facility on the former Toytown landfill. If Pinellas County Commission moves forward with using bed tax proceeds for that project they wouldn’t be available for a Rays stadium.

With the latest plan put to bed as quick as it surfaced, it solidifies endorsement choices for some City Council candidates. The Tampa Bay Times endorsed Lisa Wheeler-Brown over Will Newton in the District 7 race because she is more likely to approve a deal than her opponent. They did the same in the Steve Kornell/Philip Garrett matchup.

Had the plan been approved or a new one negotiated, it may have quieted those concerns just days before the citywide elections.

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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