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Mayor, Council differ on approach to Rays ballpark issue

Tampa Bay RaysSt. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster is committed to keeping the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field through all legal means possible, but the City Council is aggressively questioning that absolutist approach.

The split between the city and the council was apparent at a workshop for the council yesterday. Normally, a City Council workshop means a presentation from city staff, followed by an open discussion.

But Foster’s staff limited the workshop to a presentation of the history of Major League Baseball in the city, followed by a review of the lease that backed up Foster’s contention that the Rays are contractually bound to play at the Trop through 2027 and is barred from talking to other municipalities about a new ballpark. End of discussion.

That didn’t sit too well with City Council members who see the inevitable: there’s no way the Rays will be playing at the Trop through 2027. And Foster’s no-show at the workshop didn’t sit too well, either, according to Tampa Bay Online.

Tropicana Field

Foster, of course, is thinking like a lawyer in that he doesn’t want to acknowledge that there’s a way to approach the situation from a regional perspective, as the Rays have said they want to discuss ballpark locations throughout the greater Tampa Bay area. St. Pete does have some options: other ballpark sites in the city are possible, and the land underneath Tropicana Field is potentially very attractive to developers. The local Tampa Bay economy is in pretty bad shape, but it certainly won’t be forever. The Rays have been pretty patient about working with the city and other local entities on a solution, but at some point it becomes very apparent the Trop doesn’t meet current Major League Baseball standards — and that’s the moment where the “iron-clad” lease may have a few exploitable holes.

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