Tampa politics has taken another interesting turn, with the city electing police chief Jane Castor as the next Mayor of Tampa — the first LGBTQ mayor in city history — with Castor receiving 73% of the vote.
Her stance on the Tampa Bay Rays and their search for a new stadium was not a prominent focus of the election, but with her win this week, she spoke candidly with the Tampa Bay Times about the team’s situation:
Castor said the population distribution in Tampa Bay “puts the stadium, in my view, in Tampa.”
”So I will do what I can to have the Rays move to Tampa. I believe the Rays are amenable to that, they want to stay in the area,” Castor said. “I think we have several locations in Tampa that will be viable.”
By contrast, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman assured the Times that Castor will not have an easy time making that a reality, offering to meet with her or her staff to explain the situation.
That situation is the Tropicana Field “use agreement,” an ironclad lease that does not allow the Rays to search for a new stadium location until the lease expires after the 2027 season.
The Rays twice lobbied for an opportunity to look for a new stadium in Tampa Bay. The first attempt was struck down by St. Petersburg’s City Council, and the second successful attempt to perform a search ran out of time, with Tampa politicians unable to build a coalition to acquire or partially finance a new location.
In late 2018, HIllsborough County voters approved a penny-tax increase that will raise about $276 million per year designed to to ease congestion on county roads and fund a more robust mass-transit system, which could factor into a stadium construction project.
Per the Times, Castor has “indicated that she’s considering asking Kriseman to allow Tampa or Hillsborough County to have another swing at Rays,” but notes that the process must be initiated by the team.