They’re damned if they do. They’re damned if they don’t.
That’s likely how the majority of City Council feels about the impending conversation regarding the Rays, Tropicana Field and the future of baseball in Tampa Bay.
As council convenes in its chambers for yet another workshop to discuss the longstanding stalemate between the baseball franchise and the city, five of them are again being criticized by the Tampa Bay Times.
Cut a deal already, is the usual mantra of the Times and the editorial board has not changed its tune.
The Times is calling on City Council to support a proposal led by Council member Karl Nurse to conduct an Urban Land Institute study looking at potential development options, whether it includes baseball or not.
The Times puts the blame for not having a signed, sealed and delivered deal squarely on those members of council who voted against a previous Memorandum of Understanding. And that’s a true enough statement.
Now there’s another on the table addressing concerns among those no-votes including council members Bill Dudley, Amy Foster, Steve Kornell, Wengay Newton and Jim Kennedy regarding development rights. Under Mayor Rick Kriseman’s most recent brokered deal, the city would retain those rights rather than have to split them with the Rays.
But that has not proven enough for some of council and Kriseman, who needs two of those no-votes to change their minds, won’t put it to another vote until he’s sure he has it sealed.
As the Times and countless other critics of City Council’s continued rejection of a deal would describe it, their reluctance is putting the fate of baseball in the region squarely in harm’s way. Again, that may very well be the case.
But those City Council members face another booming voice from constituents who are convinced the Rays need to pony up more if they want to break their lease. These types may or may not love baseball. Most would probably love to keep the Rays in Tampa Bay. Others may just as soon wave goodbye.
Regardless, those people are constituents, too. Some don’t want to spend public dollars on a new stadium. Some liken the ongoing negotiations to a city trying way too hard to help its tenant break a lease. Others, like Council member Steve Kornell, question whether baseball is as big an economic driver the Rays claim.
Kornell asked the administration for an independent economic impact study to answer that question and the answer was no.
The bottom line, the five City Council members still wearing a Scarlett Letter as a result of a vote that occurred nearly six months ago are in an unenviable situation. Either they rally contempt from the Times and the followers on that side or they can collect any number of emails from constituents on the other side of the aisle.
Like their choice or not, it’s not a fun situation to be in and they should, at the very least, be commended for continuing to sit at the table in hopes of protecting citizens’ financial interests and the legacy of baseball.