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St. Pete Allows Rays to Look Elsewhere (in Bay Area) for New Home

Dec 9, 2014

By the end of the week, the Tampa Bay Rays may be able to look for a new stadium site in Hillsborough County, thanks to a tentative deal reached with the city of St. Petersburg.

Mayor Rick Kriseman will talk about the agreement (which you can read through the slideshow above) he reached with the team at a 10 a.m. news conference today at Tropicana Field. The issue will likely be taken up by the St. Pete City Council at its meeting Thursday.

In return for being able to leave Tropicana before its lease expires in 2027, the Rays will have to pay the city. The amount will be determined by how many years are left on the lease if they leave: $4 million a year through the end of 2018, $3 million a year from 2019 to 2022, $2 million from 2023 until the end of the deal.

In addition, the Rays would be on the hook for any remaining bond payments on the stadium, which comes to about $2 million a year. St. Pete would pay any demolition expenses on the 24 year old domed stadium.

However, the Tampa Bay Times reports there are a number of restrictions in the deal:

• The team can only look at locations in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

• The Rays have until December 31, 2017, to settle on a new site.

• If the team moves, it also will provide in-kind ongoing compensation of up to $1 million. This could include season tickets for marketing the city and signs in the new stadium touting St. Petersburg.

By agreeing to the memorandum now, the City Council will be locked into the compensation schedule and to what happens next.

The Rays would do traffic studies, cost estimates and get a general idea of what a new stadium would entail — both in Pinellas and Hillsborough — but they cannot sign contracts on a new site. If they find a location and financing they like, they would return to the city and negotiate a termination agreement.

Any disputes at that point would be settled by a circuit judge in Manatee County.

Officials from both the Rays and Major League Baseball have claimed for years that the Trop is antiquated and poorly located, which would keep baseball from surviving in the Bay area. At the same time, the Rays refused to look at other possible sites in St. Petersburg unless they were also allowed to look at Tampa and Hillsborough County as well.