With Rick Kriseman taking over the mayoral reins in St. Petersburg, many are expecting some sort of resolution to the Tampa Bay Rays ballpark situation — whether in St. Pete or Tampa.
Outgoing Mayor Bill Foster isn’t leaving behind a very strong legacy, criticized as being indecisive and inflexible on big issues, including the future of the Rays. He alternated between hardcore stances on the future of the Rays — insisting the team play out its Tropicana Field lease — and seemingly conciliatory approaches to the issue, approaches that led nowhere. (He ended up throwing bombs on the ballpark discussions at the end of the campaign when he sunk in the polls.) And it’s fairly clear that Foster was defeated for reelection partly because of his inability to lead whatsoever on the Rays ballpark issue.
Which is why Kriseman’s inauguration today is being hailed as such an important development in the future of the Rays. With Tropicana Field bonds slated to be paid off in the coming years, there’s some financial flexibility both for the Rays and the city. So far the proposed new-ballpark locations in St. Pete has been marginal at best, and it will take a bold plan to keep the team there, as Tampa officials are quietly working on a downtown new-ballpark plan as well. But it’s pretty clear that all players involved know the center cannot hold, and this year should see some interesting news about the future of the Rays.
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