The Rays’ lease at Tropicana Field expires in 2027, but bonds on the facility are scheduled to be paid off before then. The agreement, reached between team officials and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, will let the Rays look for a new ballpark in Hillsborough County (which includes Tampa), with a deadline of Dec. 31, 2017 to find a site. The team will buy out its lease and Trop bonds, and the city will be responsible for tearing down Tropicana Field after the team moves. From Tampa Bay Times:
Payments would be based on how many years remain on the Trop lease if the Rays leave, starting at $4 million a season until December 2018, dropping to $3 million a season from 2019 to 2022 and $2 million from 2023 through 2026.
The Rays would have to make any remaining bond payments on the Trop, about $2 million a year. The city would cover demolition expenses….
If the team moves, it also will provide in-kind ongoing compensation of up to $1 million. This could include season tickets for marketing the city and signs in the new stadium touting St. Petersburg.
It’s not a done deal: a press conference this morning will convey more specifics, and the St. Pete City Council must approve.
Talk about patience: Rays ownership has been working with St. Petersburg on a plan like this for years, arguing the Trop is economically obsolete. Former Mayor Bill Foster blocked most of those overtures, arguing that the team must honor its Tropicana Field lease no matter what. But when he lost reelection to the more moderate Kriseman, many assumed some sort of ballpark deal would happen. And it did.
In Tampa, there was enthusiasm for the potential of a Rays move from government officials, but Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, who has spearheaded work on a Tampa ballpark and has openly wooed the team, warns that some sort of public assistance will be needed for a new ballpark — and that will make for some interesting public discussions.
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