Rays still not free to stadium shop

City council says stalemate exists

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - A proposal to let the Rays shop around for other stadium options didn't get enough support Thursday at a St. Petersburg city council meeting.

But everyone on the city council does agree something needs to be done to get a dialog going with the Rays.
One council member even said the two sides need couples therapy.

Another council member, Bill Dudley, said "I'll guarantee you one thing. This is going to be who blinks first."

In one corner, the Tampa Bay Rays, a team with the worst attendance in the majors.

In the other corner, the City of St. Petersburg. They have an agreement with the Rays to keep them at the Trop through 2027.

There hasn't been much give on either side, so Councilman Charlie Gerdes came up with an amendment to  their agreement, allowing the Rays to look at other sites.

In exchange the Rays would pay the city $1.4 million. That's the yearly amount the city pays to subsidize the stadium.

"I don't think we should be afraid of holding ourselves up against potential sites in Hillsborough County. I just don't think we should play defense," said Gerdes.

But the city's attorney, John Wolfe, says the Rays could hurt themselves in future negotiations by giving ground now.

"It's a start toward a path which would eventually lead possibly to the Rays leaving the area," said Wolfe.

Mayor Bill Foster said he wants to break the stalemate too, but letting the Rays go would cost the city $100 million in direct economic impact.

"The idea that if we sell out now, it's going to be better, I think that's very misguided," said Mayor Foster.

A vote to let the city attorney have 30 days to look over the Gerdes amendment didn't pass, but Wolfe said he would still take a look at it.

The Rays said they have a face-to-face meeting with Mayor Foster scheduled for February 15. They also released this statement:

"We thank Councilman Gerdes for acknowledging that steps must be taken to ensure baseball's long term future in the area. Today's proceedings highlight the need for conversation between the Rays and the City of St. Petersburg, and we would welcome that conversation with any and all interested city leaders."

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