Rick Kriseman seeks to clarify Tropicana Field development concerns

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One of the reasons St. Pete City Council is speculated to have squashed Mayor Rick Kriseman’s proposed deal with the Rays to look outside the city for possible stadium sites is a component of the current Use Agreement that requires the city to pony over a portion of revenue from development on the Tropicana Field site to the MLB franchise.

“Last night, City Council clouded this issue,” Kriseman wrote in a statement. “To be clear, the City retains one-hundred percent of all development rights once the Rays leave Tropicana Field.”

City Council members voted 5-3 to reject Kriseman’s agreement with the Rays that would have required them to pay between $2 million and $4 million a year until 2026 IF they left Tropicana Field to play ball somewhere else in either Pinellas or Hillsborough County. The vote came after former council chair Karl Nurse expressed concern over the franchise leadership’s reluctance to amend the Use Agreement to waive its right to development revenue if they were planning to leave.

Kriseman, who took a major hit by the failed agreement, was quick to clarify.

“The team is only entitled to development rights while they play at the Dome. What Council was asking for was one-hundred percent of the development rights while the Rays are still there. If an opportunity emerges to redevelop the land before the Rays vacate, we would discuss that situation with the Rays at that time,” Kriseman continued. “Five members of Council sought to preclude any development rights for the Rays. By voting no, they did just the opposite, guaranteeing the Rays fifty percent of development rights through 2027.”

The two arguments aren’t really that different, though. Nurse argued during discussion at Thursday’s meeting that if the Rays are planning to leave, even if they haven’t done so yet, they shouldn’t profit from development around the Trop. The conversation was sparked as council members pointed out the city should start taking steps to mitigate the loss if the Rays end up abandoning ship. That includes looking at possible development on the site.

What Kriseman is pointing out is the Rays won’t profit from such development once they are gone.

During a brief press conference following the City Council vote, Kriseman lambasted the five council members who voted no on the agreement arguing that vote may have doomed the entire region to losing its coveted baseball team.

Rays leadership had said they would not consider changes to the agreement struck with Kriseman and owner Stuart Sternberg said if the team didn’t get the ball rolling soon, he would consider selling. If that happens, the Rays are rumored to end up in Montreal.

Even as Kriseman is looking at the agreement’s death through doom and gloom goggles, other elected officials are still looking forward. Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist today proposed a possible stadium site at the old 25-acre Tampa Greyhound track.

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.