St. Pete City Council rejects Rays’ new stadium site search deal
(Yahoo Sports) ST. PETERSBURG – An agreement between the Tampa Bay Rays and St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman that would have allowed the team to search for new stadium sites within Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, has been rejected by the St. Petersburg City Council.
If approved, the agreement would have served as the first significant breakthrough for the Rays as they attempt to move on from Tropicana Field. The Rays would have been free to survey sites within the Tampa area. If they found something to their liking and elected to opt out of their lease at Tropicana Field before it expired in 2027, they would have been on the hook to make yearly payments to the City of St. Petersburg.
It was appealing to the Rays, simply because they finally had a chance to explore new possibilities. It was appealing to mayor Kriseman because it would keep the Rays in the area, possibly even in St. Pete, and payments would still be coming in.
At the end of the day though, there were too many questions and concerns surrounding the agreement to get the support necessary from the Council.
No comment from #Rays president Brian Auld. It was five “no” votes, three “yes.”
6:24 PM – 18 Dec 2014
So the #Rays do not have permission to look for stadium sites in Hillsborough County. Council just had too many questions about the MOU.
6:26 PM – 18 Dec 2014
Brian Auld eventually released a statement expressing his disappointment.
Statement from President Brian Auld
‘We are obviously disappointed with the City Council’s decision today. Our goal was to begin a collaborative exploratory process in our region to determine the best location for a next generation ballpark. The Council has instead decided that status quo is what is in the best interest of the citizens of St. Petersburg.’
Tampa Bay Rays
Statement from #Rays President Brian Auld on today’s decision by the St. Petersburg City Council:
6:31 PM – 18 Dec 2014
So what’s next for the Rays?
Perhaps a little more haggling with the City of St. Pete in the short term.
St. Pete council looking to renegotiate deal with Rays. Question is if/how much club would bend in new set of talks.
6:35 PM – 18 Dec 2014
Long term could be another story. In fact, just last week principal owner Stuart Sternberg spelled out a scenario that doesn’t bode well for baseball’s future in the Tampa area.
But he also said that if the agreement is not approved and there is no deal in place within the next few years for a new stadium to be built, he likely will sell the team and would expect it to be moved out of the Tampa Bay area when the Trop lease runs out in 2027.
“I’m not moving this team. I’m not taking this team out of the area. But that’s me,” Sternberg said at baseball’s winter meetings in San Diego. “The chances of me owning this team in 2023 if we don’t have a new stadium are probably nil. Somebody else will take it and move it. It’s not a threat, just the reality. I won’t be sitting here 10 years from now waiting it out to move the team.”
If Sternberg was attempting to inject some urgency into the vote, it obviously didn’t work.
Though time is not up yet, it remains the enemy. With no resolution in sight, Sternberg will be forced to consider all options, which could ultimately result in the team leaving the Tampa area.
Of course, that immediately leads to speculation that the Rays will eventually relocate to Montreal. It’s natural. It’s expected. And honestly, it’s entirely possible. But there are obviously a lot of hurdles still standing in the way of that as well, beginning with who actually owns the team five or ten years down the road.
It’s a waiting game, still, and patience is obviously wearing thin. But you almost get the feeling that whatever happens next will be the most telling sign yet on what the Rays future will be.