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It's Time For 'Immediate' Negotiations With Rays, City And County Officials Say

Gate 1 outside Tropicana Field
Daylina Miller/WUSF Public Media

It's an effort to "keep them here for generations to come," St. Petersburg City Council chair Ed Montanari said.

The chair of the St. Petersburg City Council has reiterated his calls for the city and the Tampa Bay Rays to come to an agreement over the team's future home.

“We've had Major League Baseball in St. Petersburg for over 100 years. The time is now to engage with the Rays and our county partners and keep them here for generations to come,” Ed Montanari said Tuesday at a press conference outside Tropicana Field.

He was surrounded by his fellow council members, who unanimously passed a resolution in April calling for Mayor Rick Kriseman to pause his efforts to approve a redevelopment plan for the Tropicana Field site until a deal on the Rays’ future home is finalized.

The team’s lease at The Trop expires in 2027 and it has not decided on a new home. Kriseman has said he will choose one of two redevelopment plans for the site by the end of June.

In recent weeks, Rays officials have held informal discussions with leaders in Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa. The team also denied reports it's considering a move to Nashville. Rays ownership is still seeking support for a “sister city” plan that would see the the team split home games between Florida and Montreal.

Dave Eggers, chair of the Pinellas County Commission, spoke at Tuesday’s press conference. He said leaving the Rays out of discussions over the future of the Tropicana Field site is unfair to the team.

“We need to do the due diligence to see if there's a financial model that can make any sense at all,” Eggers said, referring to efforts to finance a new stadium. “The Rays, who have been good corporate citizens to St. Pete, the county and the region, deserve a reset as well."

Kriseman said last week he will not negotiate with the Rays while a lawsuit plays out between principal owner Stu Sternberg and the team’s minority owners. Montanari said that suit should not be an obstacle.

“The city administration's comments last week regarding the Rays' ownership do not reflect my position on the future of the Rays or my willingness to negotiate with them,” he said

Updated: June 1, 2021 at 3:22 PM EDT
Mayor Kriseman issued a statement on Twitter a few hours after Ed Montanari's press conference. Kriseman said Montanari and his allies on the city council are "elevating Stu Sternberg's agenda at the expense of our residents, our progress on the Tropicana Field site, and the City of St. Petersburg's negotiating position." Kriseman also said "no one" has done more to keep the Rays in St. Pete than he has, but he must also look out for the city's best interest and protect taxpayers.
Bradley George was a Morning Edition host and reporter at WUSF until March 2022.
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