St. Pete City Council voted unanimously to approve three measures related to the Tampa Bay Rays continuing to play baseball in St. Petersburg. Council member Wengay Newton was absent for the vote.
The first measure is a symbolic resolution showing council’s intention to work with the Major League Baseball team to keep them in St. Petersburg beyond the terms of their current contract that requires the team to play ball in Tropicana Field through 2027.
“I hope the Rays understand this is our desire to be good partners,” council member Jim Kennedy said.
The second measure directs city staff to determine a scope of a project to study the Rays’ economic impact playing baseball in the city compared to the economic impact they’d have on the city if they moved to Hillsborough County or out of the region entirely.
The idea is to look at the issue with an outsider’s prospective. Council member Steve Kornell initiated the measure during a workshop last month, where he pointed out that the economic studies cited to show the Rays are a valuable community asset have been biased. Many of the respondents, Kornell pointed out during the meeting Thursday, have been people attending a Rays game.
“Of course they’re going to be a lot more likely to have come for baseball,” Kornell said with a twinge of sarcasm.
Staff is going to come back to council as part of a two-part process with what an economic study would look at and how. Once council approves that scope, staff will come back a second time with a cost projection to carry it out.
The third part of Thursday’s vote deals with funding. It’s a resolution supporting continuing the one penny portion of the county’s bed tax currently collected to pay off bonds on Tropicana Field. Those bonds will be paid off this year ostensibly freeing up that penny.
Other groups have been coming to the table in hopes of getting their hands on the one-percent tourist tax that comes from a total 5 percent bed tax. However, City Council members want the county to continue earmarking those funds for a new stadium.
Based on an amendment to the original request, those funds could be used for a new stadium in St. Pete or elsewhere in Pinellas County.