Hillsborough County wants to talk with Rays about the future

County attorney will see if it's legal to meet

TAMPA - The Hillsborough County Commission didn't vote Wednesday on whether to start talking with the Rays about their future plans. They voted only to see if their attorney could research if it was even legal to do it.

"You may come back and say it's not legal at all.  Am I correct?" asked commissioner Les Miller Junior.

"That's correct," answered county attorney Don Odom.

By a 6-1 vote, the commission did approve the measure to allow the county attorney to review the Rays contract with St. Petersburg.

While everyone on the board says they need to make sure not to ruffle any feathers in St. Pete, commissioner Al Higginbotham was the only board member completely against even taking this first step.

"If we are going to be the boyfriend that breaks up the marriage, I'm not going to take part in that, because that boyfriend could have a big fist and a very strong arm," said Higginbotham.

Commissioner Ken Hagan says he's talked with St. Petersburg leaders including Mayor Bill Foster, making it clear Hillsborough County does not want to interfere with their negotiations.

But because those negotiations seem to be going nowhere, Hagan wants to be prepared.

"I do not believe the agreement prevents discussions about their future," said Hagan.

Rays ownership says Tropicana Field is no longer viable and they want to break their current deal that runs through 2027.

"When a community has a $200 to $300 million dollar a year economic engine, I feel it's incumbent as an elected official to do everything we can so that the team remains in our region," said Hagan.

Commissioner Hagan wanted to stress that any discussion will not involve talk of a taxpayer funded stadium in Tampa.

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