After the St. Petersburg City Council trashed seven years of stalemate over a a technicality, they held a workshop to discuss the Stadium situation and conversationally decided the Rays' only viable option was to stay in Tropicana Field so they should just do that.
- The current stadium lease is actually a Use Agreement with the City of St. Petersburg that runs through 2027 and prohibits the Rays from considering future sites for the team outside the city limits throughout the life of the agreement.
- After nearly a decade of stalemate and enough insults of various kinds, the Rays decided they would no longer negotiate with the City Council in open forums, and instead focus efforts through an intermediary from the city, namely the Mayor of St. Petersburg.
- The Rays and the Mayor of St. Petersburg negotiated a de facto amendment to the Use Agreement of Tropicana Field to allow the team to explore new stadium locations outside the city limits. The Memorandum of Understanding included a termination agreement that would allow the Rays to buy out their lease for ~$32M.
- Principal owner Stu Sternberg claims that without a new stadium in the region, the Rays will likely be sold to a new ownership group, most likely one interested in moving the team out of Tampa Bay.
- The City Council votes to deny the new agreement based on the team's refusal to negotiate even minor details of the agreement with the Council. Instead they call for a "stadium workshop." The Rays describe the environment as a "mob mentality" while members of the Council call the team "arrogant."
- It is revealed that the issue at hand was "profits from redevelopment of Tropicana Field." Currently, the Rays retain 50% of the profits of redevelopment of the 80 acres under Tropicana Field while the team is using the facility. Not only is such an activity unlikely, it would result in only a few thousand dollars for either party, which pales in comparison to the buy out, which could be as high as $40M.
- The City Council holds a stadium workshop, and the group of elected officials conversationally decided that the 80 acres currently in use would be the best choice for the Rays and that there was no need for them to look outside the city limits, without relying on economic figures or any apparent research (although a report was requested of Mayor's office). The Council planned a second workshop to discuss keeping the Rays at Tropicana Field further.
- In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Sternberg reveals that the team no longer plans to attend Council meetings and will instead rely on their intermediary (the Mayor) to introduce further proposals.
- The Rays and the Mayor re-negotiated the agreement to include the Council's concerns, including moving 100% of profits from re-development to the City (should they occur), but the Council refused to consider the re-negotiated agreement.
- The City Council delayed their second workshop by one month to focus efforts on the St. Petersburg Pier instead.
And now we're here. The second workshop will take place this afternoon. The Rays will not attend, but the Mayor should be involved and might have something to contribute this time around.
In the Tampa Bay Times, Charlie Fargo reports that city hall has some ideas that might help move things along in a positive direction, including launching that economic study requested by the Council. From the way it's discussed, it looks like the report might be a bit above the city's budget to handle, but the Mayor thinks the Rays would chip in.
Rays officials won't be there. But Mayor Rick Kriseman will attend the workshop, looking to "move the issue forward," in the words of his chief of staff Kevin King.
The mayor is open to a study, King said, especially if the Rays are willing to shoulder some of the cost. Rays officials have said they would be willing to do that.
Kriseman sent council members a memo last week outlining existing research on the economic impact of baseball for cities. The findings range in a spectrum from significant to almost none. Council member Jim Kennedy had requested the city do its own study, but Kriseman declined, saying the city would likely arrive at similar conclusions to the existing research.
One new possible wrinkle in the saga? Somehow tying the potentially lucrative future of the Tropicana Field property to the economically distressed poor neighborhoods to its south.
So what can we expect of the second stadium workshop today?
For more on the broader redevelopment of St. Petersburg, and its affect on the Rays Stadium Saga, check out this report from WTSP's Grayson Kamm.