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Sternberg praises Montreal progress as St. Pete Mayor, City Council stall on future stadium plans

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Tampa Bay Rays vs. Cuban National Team - Major League Baseball En La Habana

Here’s the latest in the Stadium Saga:

The Rays remain dedicated to the Sister City concept of splitting their season between Tampa Bay and Montreal in their bid to increase attendance and revenue streams.

The Rays commitment to this split season plan has not wavered since they first announced their intentions in 2019.

As St. Pete put out a request for proposals for the larger Tropicana Field site, the Rays announced their own proposal which would give them full control and profits from a 25 acre stadium parcel (on top of the 50% of development proceeds they are already guaranteed on the larger site, if it is redeveloped while they occupy Tropicana Field).

St. Pete’s Mayor Rick Kriseman said a quick “no” to that gambit, but the Times reports that 5 of 8 City Council members think it is worth further discussion, even knowing that the Rays now have at best half a season of games on offer.

Local politics complicates issues even further. Mayor Kriseman is a lame duck, whose term will be up at the end of 2021. Several members of the city council who are now critical of his handling of the redevelopment plans - and his frosty relationship with the Rays — are candidates to replace him. Interestingly, Kriseman previously made his willingness to negotiate with the Rays an important differentiator in his 2013 campaign platform. We may well see history repeat itself, with those vying for the mayor’s position campaigning on the claim that they will be able to resolve the impasse that Kriseman has left.

All sides have some incentive to keep things moving. The 2027 lease expiration date is looming; the Rays need to know where they will be playing in 2028 and also have an interest in seeing redevelopment get underway so that they can claim their share of development profits. For Kriseman, redevelopment of the 86-acreTropicana Field area is a final, and defining, achievement of his two terms, and no doubt he wants to make key decisions before he leaves. The city has an overall interest in taking advantage of a still-hot St. Pete real estate market.

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg feels “much more confident about the Montreal side,” also per the Times, than he is about the future of baseball in Tampa Bay. Here’s why:

Prospective owner Stephen Bronfman’s Montreal Baseball Group has registered lobbyists to ask the provincial government to partially finance a baseball stadium, “including the design of a new sports and community complex on the Wellington Basin site”.

Previous plans in Montreal had been for the Peel Basin site, but a current master plan for Peel Basin did not include a baseball stadium, per a webcast by a developer working on the publicly owned land. This is more likely a negotiating tactic for the developer.

The provincial government in Quebec has begun to consider the request for public financing, with the Finance Minister Legault calling the idea a “win-win.”

In other words, that developer is probably getting what they want, with an enthusiastic government partner. Here’s Legault on whether a stadium is worth the city’s investment:

“There’s a value for sure. You loan them money and you give the grant only if there’s additional revenue at the Ministry of Finance. It’s a win-win situation.”

The government technically controls the site in question, having acquired it in 2010.

Meanwhile, St. Petersburg is trying to pump the breaks.

Last month the St. Pete City Council refused the Mayor the nominal funds necessary to hire a firm to help sift through proposal for redevelopment, but the Mayor’s office is full steam ahead on redevelopment regardless, and is planning to declare a winning developer bid in May having narrowed the proposals to four.

Previously: Tropicana Field site redevelopment narrowed to four proposals