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Hillsborough County: Nothing legally bars us from talking new ballpark with Rays

Tampa Bay RaysDespite the insistence from St. Petersburg officials that the Tampa Bay Rays are barred from talking new ballpark with anyone else, Hillsborough County legal staff says they can enter talks whenever they want.

The legal decision really comes down to some basic contract law: since Hillsborough County (which includes Tampa) isn’t a party to the lease between the Rays and St. Pete for Tropicana Field — which contains provisions penalizing the Rays should ballpark parks ensue — St. Petersburg can’t really go after the county should talks ensue. Furthermore, if a new lease between Hillsborough County and the Rays includes money to cover any losses suffered by St. Pete — like paying off ballpark debt or replacing tax revenues — Hillsborough officials say that should cover any claims of harm and damage.

As you’d expect, St. Petersburg’s legal team disagrees. And this is why we have courts.

Now, no one expects discussions between Hillsborough County and the Rays to launch tomorrow. But St. Petersburg digging in its heels on the need for the Rays to play out the Trop lease through 2027 probably isn’t the best move, either: working to keep a tenant in a subpar facility for 15 years will not drive many fans to downtown St. Pete.

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