ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - In a clear sign that a solution to the Tampa Bay Rays stadium situation was far from being solved, St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster gave a grim assessment of the negotiations and stated that Major League Baseball is not committed to the region.
"Major League Baseball has no intention of assisting the City and Rays in reaching a mutually beneficial solution," Foster said in a memo to the city council.
"Major League Baseball's sole motivation, and consequently Commissioner Selig's only measure of success in this matter, appears to be accomplishing Major League Baseball's agenda," said Foster.
The mayor said he was open to a solution that would compensate the taxpayers of St. Petersburg if the Rays were to break the contract that ties them to Tropicana Field until 2027.
"I cannot support an outcome that is primarily at the public's expense," said Foster.
The memo took some members of the St. Petersburg city council by surprise.
District 1 council member Charlie Gerdes said he was under the impression that negotiations with the Rays had been improving.
"This big roadblock was very disappointing," Gerdes said.
"I guess they feel like we're obligated to let them look for nothing. And that's a real problem. It's a sticking point."
Foster did not answer questions about his memo Thursday. But his opponent in the upcoming mayoral election, Rick Kriseman, pounced on Foster, suggesting the mayor was part of the negotiating problem.
"The mayor's lost the trust of the Rays," Kriseman said. "He's said some things in the past that kind of breached that trust. And based on their response to his memo, he's done it again."
The Rays' response to Foster was quick but critical.
"It is unfortunate and unproductive in so many ways that Mayor Foster chose now to publicly describe our conversations," the Rays said in a statement.
With no clear solution in sight, the issue will likely be used against Foster as the candidates get closer to election day.
"This is a problem that was there initially when he took office," said Kriseman.
"It's still there today, which means that it hasn't been addressed. It's time that this issue got solved and it's only going to get solved with leadership," Kriseman said.