St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster has shot down a request by the Tampa Bay Rays to explore options for a new stadium in Hillsborough County.
In a letter to Stuart Sternberg, owner of the Tampa Bay Rays, Mayor Bill Foster said that by the terms and spirit of the contract, the team cannot look for a new stadium location in Hillsborough County.
Foster said the city will only negotiate with the team for a St. Pete location or in the Gateway area, which is the site of a proposed stadium by CityScape.
In the letter, Foster writes:
"At this point, the only way to adequately preserve the interests of the people of St. Petersburg is to leave the Use, Management and Operation Agreement intact, and the City will not agree, by affirmative act or acquiescence, to any stadium exercise outside of St. Petersburg or Pinellas Gateway. However, the offer by the city to explore the CityScape proposal is still on the table, and I remain hopeful that we can work together to preapre an amendment allowing the Rays to work with CityScape to fully examine this site as a future home for the Tampa Bay Rays. While we can write letters all day long, my preference is still a face to face meeting to discuss these issues of great mutual importance."
According to Foster, the Rays are still obligated to the citizens of St. Petersburg to play either 15 more seasons or 1,215 more game in Tropicana Field. The Rays, Foster said, have an obligation to St. Pete and Pinellas County because both have stepped up to help the Rays in the past.
"When you became the principal owner of the Rays in 2005, you did so with your eyes wide open, fully aware of this history, and with full knowledge of these commitments made by your predecessors just ten years earlier. In 1995, the Dome was completely vetted by a MLB facility review team, and the city and county were asked by the Rays to step up once again to make $50 million in improvement to bring the Dome in line with Major League Baseball's standards. St. Petersburg and Pinellas County did step up, as they always have, to support the Rays."
City admin and its legal team have said letting the Rays explore locations outside of St. Petersburg opens up the opportunity for the Rays to leave the entire region.
John Wolfe, St. Pete City Attorney, said while he believes the Rays want to remain in Tampa Bay, there is a huge risk by letting them negotiate with Tampa directly.
"The Rays and the Times want us to allow them to talk to Tampa,” Wolfe said at an August council meeting. “All that does, if that provision is set aside or waived, both the Times and Tampa are really helping to allow the Rays to talk to anybody in the country.”
In September, the 'Rays at Carillon Park' was introduced to the public.
Developers Darryl LeClair and CityScape presented their plan for the “Rays Park at Carillon,” in front of the St. Petersburg City Council, Pinellas County Commission and members of the Rays organization.
The cost could range from $424 million to $574 million, with private financing or a combination of public and private financing as options, organizers said.
“Every successful project just like this one begins with an idea,” said Susan Johnson, executive vice president of CityScape, on at the Sept. 28 stadium presentation. “And that idea evolves into a vision and a vision is refined into a plan and the plan matures into a commitment … and a commitment gets a shovel.”
"This moment presents the opportunity to keep the Rays in the only home they’ve ever known," Johnson said.