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.