A St. Petersburg City Council member says the Tampa Bay Rays should be allowed to talk to other cities in the region about a new ballpark -- but only after paying a $1.4 million fee, and without assurances the current Tropicana Field lease could be ended.
The fee wouldn't allow the Rays to leave the Trop before the lease ends in 2027; the fee as proposed by Charles Gerdes would only give the Rays permission to talk with other government bodies about a new ballpark. Breaking the lease would require additional negotiations, and any talks would need to include a since-dropped proposal to build a new ballpark at St. Pete's Carillon Business Park.
"My primary intention is for St. Petersburg and Pinellas County investors to be able to have those kinds of talks with the Rays," Gerdes said. "And if the Rays want to look into Hillsborough, which they don't have permission to do today, we get something in return."
But the proposal would not release the Rays from their commitment to play at Tropicana Field through 2027 nor let them negotiate to play at another site sooner. If the Rays found another site, they would still have to then negotiate with the city to break their lease.
"It gives them permission to look, not leave," Gerdes said.
The beauty of the proposal: it takes Mayor Bill Foster, an absolutist when it comes to keeping the Rays in Tropicana Field, out of the equation. If this payment is included in a contract amendment, then Foster has no say (i.e., a veto) over the change.
No reaction from the team or other city officials. Still, there are some in the city who see the inevitability of the Rays negotiating within the region for a new home -- the issue is putting a price on the transaction.
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