St. Pete Council KO's Rays Move
On Thursday, the St. Petersburg City Council rejected by a 5-3 vote Mayor Rick Kriseman's proposed agreement with the Tampa Bay Rays that would have allowed the team to explore new stadium options in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties.
Mayor Kriseman said the agreement was designed to keep the Rays in the bay area but several city council members were skeptical of the terms of the plan. Some would prefer to redevelop the team's current stadium.
The Rays have a lease on their current home at Tropicana Field until 2027. In the end, too many council members were concerned the agreement would pave the way for the Rays to leave St. Petersburg regardless of what financial steps were taken to keep the team in the bay area.
"Now, beyond 2027 I don't know what they've got planned," said City Council member Wengay Newton. "I really don't. But, I do know a contract is a contract and I would hope that these businessmen would honor that."
But the mayor and Rays President Brian Auld couldn't convince the city council to approve the measure and the city council voted against the proposal.
The mayor said the agreement would keep the Rays in the bay area while they looked for a new local site for the team. And he argued this is the best deal the city would likely get.
"To those who would say this agreement doesn't pay us enough the answer is simple. This is it. This is the result of countless rounds of negotiations and meetings and phone calls during the past year," Kriseman told council members. "And the Rays have made it very clear that this is the most they are willing to pay."
But council members like Jim Kennedy said the so called "memorandum of understanding" between the city and the Rays may be just a way for the team to get out of their lease at the Trop.
"I am concerned that the memorandum of understanding could weaken that use agreement," he said. "And that it could be used as an exit strategy of sorry folks, we just didn't find anything in the area, so we're going to go. ' "
Council members did however unanimously vote to spend 2015 exploring ways to build a new stadium in St. Petersburg.