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Residents: Let Rays buy out Trop lease, move to Tampa

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Tampa Bay Rays

A plurality of St. Petersburg residents are willing to let the Tampa Bay Rays buy out their Tropicana Field lease and pursue a new ballpark anywhere in the Tampa Bay area.

This was released in a poll released this morning. The poll, conducted on behalf of the Tampa Bay Times, Bay New 9 and WUSF Public Media, indicated support for a Rays move to a new ballpark, even it means a move to downtown Tampa and Hillsborough County. From the Times:

Among the 809 respondents, 48 percent were open to letting the Rays explore new stadium options all over the Tampa Bay area, with 39 percent opposed, while 13 percent were unsure or did not answer. The margin of error was 3.4 percent.

People did not see stadium negotiations as the city's single most pressing issue. Building a new pier, public safety and Midtown redevelopment came first. But the poll does show that the electorate is keeping pace with city administrators as they evolve into a more nuanced position on the stadium.

The Rays have been caught up in reelection politics, as incumbent Bill Foster -- a hardliner who wants to see the Rays stay at the Trop through 2027, when the lease ends -- has fought to prevent the Rays from even talking to Tampa officials. This summer, as Foster was first challenged, he softened that attitude and talked with the Rays about a potental buyout of the lease. Those talks broke down when Foster said the Rays weren't offering anything toward a Trop payout (something the team and challenger Rick Kriseman deny). Since then Foster has avoided the issue, and polls indicate he will have a tough time winning reelection next Tuesday. That uncertainly, by the way, is undoubtedly contributing to the Rays' silence on the balpark issue: No sense in negotiating with Foster if he's headed for lame-duck status.

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