Top Menu

St. Pete ratchets up legal threats over new Rays ballpark

Tampa Bay RaysJust when it appears there’s some movement on a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark, St. Petersburg officials step in to throw cold water on the proceedings, threatening to sue anyone who pitches the team on a new facility.

The legal threat comes from St. Petersburg City Attorney John Wolfe, sent directly to Hillsborough County attorneys and promises legal action if the county, which encompasses Tampa, discusses new ballpark with the Rays ownership. The basis of the threat: a clause in the Rays’ Tropicana Field lease that forbids the team from entering into “any agreement or negotiations (directly or indirectly)” regarding a new facility. Hillsborough County officials want to meet with the Rays and see what their needs are; the Rays have agreed but no meeting has been scheduled.

Now, setting aside the fact that Hillsborough County isn’t a party to the Tropicana Field lease (it’s pretty hard to enforce a contract provision against someone who didn’t sign the contract), the threat relies on a potential pressing of “tortious interference” — a civil matter — against Hillsborough County regarding ballpark negotiations. Tortious interference is notoriously difficult to prove in civil court; St. Petersburg would first need to establish damages (which may be difficult; although the Trop lease runs through 2027, debt on the facility is set to be paid off in 2016) and then prove Hillsborough County led the Rays to break a lease. While the letter from Wolfe was full of rhetoric and opened the possibility of suing individual Hillsborough County commissioners individually if they met with the Rays, it’s pretty clear that this letter is nothing more than gutter-level rhetoric.

The irony is that things have been going pretty well for St. Pete officials when it came to the Rays: the team has indeed asked to look at ballpark solutions across the entire region, but only after discussions about the future of the Trop. And a Carillon Business Park location is clearly still in the mix. As we noted, bonds on Tropicana Field are set to be paid off in 2016: it’s pretty easy to see a scenario where the Rays play at the Trop through 2016 while bonds are being paid off and a new ballpark is being constructed. If the team moves, the city is left with a very, very attractive parcel of land close to downtown St. Pete that surely would attract the attention of developers.

Things move slowly in St. Pete: Mayor Bill Foster still hasn’t responded to the Rays’ offer to resolve the future of the Trop before any discussions of a new ballpark. This letter — full of sound and fury, signifying nothing — does nothing to advance the discussion or address any outstanding issues.

RELATED STORIES: Is a business park the best place for a Rays ballpark?; More land assembled for new Rays ballpark?; Rays propose ballpark talks after Trop situation worked out; Abundance of riches: Another new ballpark pitched for Rays; LeClair unveils intriguing ballpark plan for RaysRays: We’ll listen to St. Pete ballpark pitchLetter: Rays can talk new ballpark — but only for St. Pete locationBallpark pitch will be heard by St. Pete — but officials will not respond; Parking huge issue for proposed Rays ballpark sitePinellas County, private investor want to pitch Rays, St. Pete on ballpark planRays: We’ll talk new ballpark with Hillsborough CountyHillsborough County: Nothing legally bars us from talking new ballpark with RaysNewly available land parcel could bring downtown Tampa ballpark — maybeImmigration funds eyed for new Rays ballparkOakland contemplates foreign investments to help fund A’s ballparkHillsborough County ready to make run at new Rays ballparkRays: Prove to us Tampa Bay can support baseballCould this be the year for a new Rays ballpark?Regional ballpark authority pitched for Tampa BayMayor, council differ on approach to Rays ballpark issue;Tampa: We could have $100M for new Rays ballparkYet another group seeks to break Rays ballpark logjamSt. Pete mayor: there’s nothing wrong with the TropTampa, St. Pete business leaders combine forces for new Rays ballparkCould Rays declare bankruptcy to escape Trop lease?Tampa Sports Authority declines to participate in Rays ballpark talks — for nowChamber to take up Rays ballpark causePinellas County extends hotel tax — but not enough for new Rays ballparkSelig still “concerned” about Rays ballpark situationPinellas County mulls hotel-tax extension for new Rays ballparkRays: No, we’re not interested in limiting ballpark search to St. PeteCan Tampa Bay support MLB?St. Pete officials now say Trop is replaceable — at a pricePotential new player emerges in Rays ballpark battleRays: Time to talk new ballpark againRays ballpark brawl: Tampa versus St. PeteThree Rays ballpark sites recommended by committeeNew Rays ballpark discussion shifts to Tampa;Group: Any new Rays ballpark needs retractable roof; Group: Renovating Trop isn’t option in keeping RaysRays task force may have prelim recommendations by June — but no site


Share your news with the baseball community. Send it to us at

Are you a subscriber to the weekly Ballpark Digest newsletter? You can sign up for a free subscription at the Newsletter Signup Page.

Join Ballpark Digest on Facebook and on Twitter!

Follow Ballpark Digest on Google + and add us to your circles!

, , , , , , ,