As was expected, the Tampa Bay Rays will not pursue an extension of a December 31 deadline with St. Petersburg, effectively ending their region-wide search for a new ballpark site.
Through much of this year, the Rays engaged in discussions about a proposed $892 million ballpark project in Tampa’s Ybor City. The team’s lease at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg runs through 2027, but an agreement approved by St. Petersburg officials in 2016 gave the Rays through the end of this year to explore the Tampa Bay region for another site.
Questions about the deadline had persisted in recent months, but a possible extension seemingly became moot last week, when the Rays ceased negotiations over the Ybor City proposal under the belief that it was financially unfeasible. On Monday, the team notified St. Petersburg that it will not seek an extension of the December 31 deadline, leaving questions for now about the next steps in its ballpark search. More from the Tampa Bay Times:
The team remains mum on its future and has not signaled that it’s interested in pursuing a new stadium in St. Petersburg. At this point, the only contract the Rays are bound to honor is the one that states the team must play in Tropicana Field until 2027.After that, where the Rays choose to play their home games is as uncertain as ever. The letter offers no clarity on that. The letter does appear to eliminate the possibility, however, that last week’s announcement was a leverage play designed to get a better deal in Hillsborough.
That’s little solace for those who want to see the team remain local.
“I don’t have a sense of relief,” said St. Petersburg City Council Chair Charlie Gerdes, who said he’d rather see the team find a long-term home in Pinellas County, but would also rather the team stay in the Tampa Bay area than leave altogether. “It’s not time to be relieved, it’s time to make sure they stay here for a long time.”
He added: “I want them to find a place where they can keep ‘TB’ on their hats for a long time.”
There are many questions at this point about the next steps in a new ballpark search. It could take years for any facility plan to come together, perhaps making the end of the Tropicana Field lease a logical target date for a new ballpark. St. Petersburg officials have previously floated the idea of building a new ballpark as part of a larger redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site, though the Rays have yet to show interest in the idea. The team could choose to bide its time in hopes of reviving discussions in Tampa down the road, but any plan to hold off on ballpark discussions could see the Rays gamble on how future economic conditions would affect negotiations.
Rendering courtesy Tampa Bay Rays.
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