The City of St. Petersburg has come to an agreement with the Tampa Bay Rays that will allow the Major League Baseball franchise to look outside of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County for a new stadium.
St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman will officially announce the deal during a press conference at Tropicana Field Tuesday, but a memorandum of understanding has already been released by the city outlining how the sports franchise will compensate the city if it begins playing ball in a new stadium before its contract with the city expires in 2027.
According to the memo, the Rays will pay St. Pete $4 million per year for any season it does not play all of its home games at Tropicana Field through 2018. If the Rays play elsewhere between January 1, 2019, and December 31, 2022, the club will pay $3 million per year and from 2023-2026 they will pay $2 million a year.
The payments would be due the city by November 30 for the year home games were played outside the contracted venue, Tropicana Field.
St. Pete has a contract with the Rays until 2027 to play in St. Petersburg.
The Rays, under the guidance of Major League Baseball, have been pushing for a new stadium for years. Speculation that the franchise may prefer a site in Tampa has been raised, but the Rays management has been contractually forbidden to discuss plans with other cities.
This agreement will allow the franchise to begin searching for a new stadium site and could spell the end of baseball in St. Pete.
Kriseman has said since taking office, and during campaigning, that his priority was protecting St. Petersburg taxpayers. This contract represents a fulfillment of that promise ensuring financial compensation if the Rays breach its current contract.
The memorandum also requires the Rays to provide up to $1 million worth of in-kind compensation including things like city use days or city promotions on signage. If the franchise does not comply with in-kind contributions, they would have to pay a lump sum $1 million fee to the city. That agreement runs through the end of the 2027 baseball season.
The agreement is void if the Rays decide to play outside of Pinellas or Hillsborough.