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St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman exposes Rays negotiating position for new stadium

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The Rays thought they were negotiating in private but Kriseman brought their most recent ask to a press conference in anticipation of unveiling redevelopment plans.

MLB: SEP 30 AL Wild Card Series - Blue Jays at Rays Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman held a press conference today in anticipation of unveiling proposals for the redevelopment of the Tropicana site. Much of his announcement was pretty pro forma, but there was one surprise: he revealed that the Rays have asked to control, and retain 100% of the proceeds of, 50 acres of land that would include the next Rays stadium.

The current agreement provides the Rays for 50% of all proceeds, so this request is something new. But it also was an ask that the Rays had made in what they evidently thought were private negotiations. Kriseman’s choice to go public with a denial of a Rays negotiating proposal — again — is yet more evidence that relations between the team and the Mayor have badly soured.

“Right now, they’re entitled to 50 percent of the proceeds and that’s with a full-time team in the city,” Kriseman said. “And they’re proposing to take 100 percent of the proceeds for a large part of that land, and 50 percent for the rest of it. And that’s for a part-time team.”

The incentive for the Mayor to air this denial is not clear. Kriseman had unexpectedly faced backlash from the City Council members last week for not keeping them in the loop on stadium land redevelopment. The press conference today may have occurred in part due to that criticism.

By airing this dirty laundry, Mayor Kriseman — in his final year in office — seems unlikely to win many allies in securing a way forward for the land.

Also of note: both the city and the Rays have begun to claim that their negotiating position will do what’s best for the low-income communities that were displaced by the current stadium nearly 40 years ago.

Here’s Mayor Rick Kriseman:

Kriseman said the revenues from redevelopment are not the only issue with the team’s proposal. When the stadium was originally approved in the mid-1980s, it was supposed to serve as a catalyst for low-income communities nearby. The financial windfall was never fully realized even though dozens of Black families had been forced to relocate to make way for the stadium.

The new redevelopment project would be a way to readdress those wrongs, and city leaders have promised to listen to the community’s desires. By turning over half of the available property to the Rays, Kriseman said the city would forfeit its ability to integrate low-income housing throughout the parcel, as well as choosing development that could lead to higher-paying jobs in the area.

By turning over half of the available property to the Rays, Kriseman said the city would forfeit its ability to integrate low-income housing throughout the parcel, as well as choosing development that could lead to higher-paying jobs in the area.

Agreeing to this plan would also mean asking developers to resubmit their proposals for the site since the city would only control 36 acres of the parcel. ”It undermines the entire process of what we’ve been trying to do out there,” Kriseman said.

And Rays President Brian Auld, who takes the position that all voices need to be able to assert what is in the best interest of each party:

“The proposal he referenced was a starting point. It was meant to initiate a discussion, not a take-it-or-leave-it. Not a we-have-to-have-complete-control of the land,” Auld said. “We said, ‘This is our vision, we want to work together to make sure we both agree this is a good plan for the future.’ And we need the county, the (city) council, the community, the African American community, we need all of them at the table, too. But here’s a way we might be able to afford a ballpark and get this thing going.”

For the Rays, the Mayor’s decision to out their negotiating position isn’t ideal, but the position should also not come as a surprise. The Rays have already made clear their desire to leave the city and play on the other side of the bay, near the metro area’s population center.

The Rays have no incentive to offer to stay in St. Petersburg for anything less than a financial win, as the team has their own leverage and can deny the city’s attempts to redevelop the land while they occupy the stadium. If a potential new stadium is a financial loss or near break even deal, it would be no different than if the team simply moved to Tampa on its own.

The city received 7 viable proposals for the redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site, and those plans will be released to the public at 4:00 this afternoon. None of those plans are expected to have the negotiating position taken by the Rays this week.