After months of negotiating terms and conditions to build a new stadium, the St. Petersburg City Council said no to a proposed deal hammered out by Mayor Rick Kriseman and Tampa Bay Rays brass.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, a struggle over development rights on the Tropicana Field property became a sticking point for Rays president Brian Auld and the city council.
Mayor Kriseman clarified the struggle in a statement reported in the Saint Peters Blog, “The team is only entitled to development rights while they play at the Dome. What Council was asking for was one-hundred percent of the development rights while the Rays are still there. If an opportunity emerges to redevelop the land before the Rays vacate, we would discuss that situation with the Rays at that time.”
Stuart Sternberg, the Rays owner, has been saying for the last six years that the team is interested in searching the entire region to find a new stadium spot. Last week he said that if the council rejected this deal he would no longer negotiate and that baseball in Tampa Bay would be “doomed.”
Council members insisted during discussions that they hoped the Rays would limit their search to St. Petersburg. According to Kriseman if the council doesn’t vote in favor of the agreement ultimately the entire region may lose the team.
Sternberg said that if the Rays are simply bound to the Tropicana Field, he would eventually sell the team to another owner. The new owners would be forced to keep the team at the Trop until the current lease expires in 2027.
According to Timothy Burke at Deadspin that may not be such a bad thing. By rejecting the deal to give the Rays what they want and making them play out their contract it ensures that St. Petersburg has a team for the next 13 years and that taxpayers get paid back everything they shelled out on the stadium and the team since 1998.