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St. Petersburg City Council counter-offers plan to allow Rays Stadium search

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New proposal doubles the proposed payout to the city.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With the final meeting of the St. Petersburg City Council before November elections, the all-powerful board in control of the Rays lease for Tropicana Field offered a plan to allow a new stadium search.

Now for the first time ever, the City of St. Petersburg has offered the Rays an opportunity to search for a new stadium anywhere outside the city limits, something legally prohibited in their current agreement. The cost to move would be $5M in demolition costs, and a fee of $4M per year through 2027.

Councilman Jim Kennedy, one of the five dissenting votes for the previous Rays stadium search proposal, offered the plan to the Council, which passed with a 5-3 vote this afternoon. It would appear that votes against the proposal believed the counter-offer to be too expensive for the team.

Under this agreement, the team would pay $4M to the city for every year remaining on its stadium-use contract that runs through 2027, but if the team remains in Pinellas County, the annual compensation amount would drop to $2.5M.

Further details, as reported by The Tribune's Chris O'Donnell, would require the team to pay a one-time "redevelopment fee" to cover the demolition of Tropicana Field and site preparation costs, a cost of $5M if the Rays move across Tampa Bay or $2.5M if they settle on a new site in Pinellas.

The cost of staying in the city limits, presumably a free option to the team, was not noted. While it is not anticipated the Rays would stay in St. Petersburg, where only 10% of the Bay area's residents live within half an hour of the stadium, the opportunity should remain available.

As an aside, the offer would be revoked if Pinellas County commissioners decide to use the penny of bed taxes used to pay off Tropicana Field debt for another project.

On the positive side, there does not appear to be a cost for the mere permission to look for a new stadium site outside the city limits, something legally prohibited in the current contract, but the overall cost as practically doubled.

As noted by Noah Pransky, the reporter behind Shadow of the Stadium, this new deal is rather similar to the costs proposed by former Mayor Bill Foster, who wanted ~$5M from the Rays per season to vacate Tropicana Field. The team wanted a figure about half that amount.

The above figure is also significantly more than the compromise proposed by Councilman Charlie Gerdes, who thought a deal worth ~$25.5M would be a fair compromise. Gerdes was one of three votes against the new proposal. The original proposal by the Rays would have paid the city $20M to move by the 2019 season.

It took a year for the City Council to make a counter proposal, and their ask doubles the cost of the Rays being allowed to leave the St. Petersburgh city limits.