The Rays may finally have the foothold needed for progress is St. Petersburg. The election yesterday put three of the eight seats on the City Council up for grabs. and all three winners benefit the Rays -- including two members with voting records in favor of a Rays stadium search, and a new-comer who was backed by the Tampa Bay Times (and seemingly the Rays).
Councilwoman Lisa Wheeler-Brown campaigned for the only open City Council seat on a platform for re-developing Tropicana Field's 85-acres, particularly while the economic costs were low and the opportunity to grow jobs in St. Petersburg was high. Such an urgency plays into the Rays' interests.
This puts her firmly in favor of allowing the Rays to vacate Tropicana Field, joining councilmen Charlie Gerdes (who won re-election last night), Darden Rice, and Karl Nurse on the eight member City Council that controls the Rays' lease of Tropicana Field (which runs through 2027).
It requires a majority vote, however, for the Rays to make any progress with the city, but previous votes and comments regarding the stadium situation show Councilman Steve Kornell (who also won re-election last night) would likely vote in favor of the Rays stadium search.
The City Council re-convenes in January having entertained four separate proposals for a Rays stadium search in the last 18-months. Relying on mediating from St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman, the likelihood of the Rays finding a solution to their stadium woes just dramatically increased.
In February, the Rays will also be adding to their executive staff Nashville Predators CEO Jeff Cogen, who has a strong reputation for stadium and third party negotiations, as well as improvements in attendance. Over the next few months, Cogen will share his time between the two franchises while transitioning his duties in Nashville.
Relying on the citizens of St. Petersburg to vote in members that favored the Rays stadium search, the team suddenly looks far wiser for having denied the Council's October Proposal to allow the lease to be terminated at double the team's previously negotiated costs.