The Rays nearly had the City Council's approval. After a year of negotiating, the proposed deal not only would have allowed the Rays to look in Pinellas and Hillsborough County for a new Stadium site, but provided a sliding payment scale for termination of the "use agreement" that leases Tropicana Field.
This was set to be a monumental win for the Rays, until Councilman Karl Nurse called Rays President Brian Auld back to the podium to discuss a generally over-looked aspect of the use agreement.
Through questioning it was revealed that the current agreement allows the Rays to maintain 50% of the proceeds from redeveloping the site of Tropicana Field. Under the new deal that was brought to the City Council for vote, this would not have changed.
To many on the Council, this was a slap in the face. The Rays wanted to explore every opportunity to leave Tropicana Field, and by perception, they wanted to profit from Tropicana Field's future plans as well. On that supposed realization, the vote swung from Yes to No, and the Rays were not looking to defend themselves, even if the accusation wasn't true.
The Rays were careful to not include the City Council in negotiations, working directly with Mayor Kriseman instead. Discussions around a detail in the proposed amendment would not be entertained. This was also poorly received by the Council, they felt their hands were tied. If the Rays were so eager to look elsewhere, but adamant that the new deal would not be re-negotiated, then the request would be denied.
City Attorney John Wolfe, who wrote the use agreement currently confining the Rays to Tropicana Field, lauded the questioning levied by Councilman Nurse, and said as much to the Tampa Bay Times.
"He killed it right there,'' Wolfe said, speaking of Nurse. "I was watching the faces of council members, and Auld lost a lot of their votes at that moment." Auld was put on the spot, and essentially asked if the Rays would relinquish the profits from Tropicana Field once the team had left.
"He didn't just say no, he said hell no,'' said Councilman Jim Kennedy, speaking of Auld's reaction but not his words. "It was a take-it-or-leave-it attitude, and that's not the best way to do business.''
It should be noted, however, that Nurse was one of three council members who voted Yes on the proposed deal, along with Charlie Gerdes and Darden Rice.
Dissenting votes on the new deal were council members Steve Kornell, Wengay Newton, Amy Foster, Jim Kennedy and Bill Dudley. "If the Rays leave Tampa Bay one day, the Tampa Bay Times Editorial read this morning, "remember which five council members are to blame."
Now it will be up to the Rays to re-negotiate, or move on to a new approach.
Without the profits from the site at Tropicana Field, it remains to be seen whether the Rays will still consider the $20-32 million proposed termination clause fair.