Rays ask city of St. Petersburg to amend contract, explore stadium location options

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The Tampa Bay Rays are asking the City of St. Petersburg to amend their contract so they can explore stadium options, according to a formal letter released Thursday.

The request comes after Mayor Bill Foster proposed that the team consider a baseball stadium in the Gateway/Carillon Park area ( http://bit.ly/Qm3xSm).

The team's owner, Stuart Sternberg, replied to the proposal with a letter asking that changes be made to their contract, including putting an end to the mandate that ties the Rays to the Tropicana Field until 2027.

The Rays are currently blocked from negotiating with any party regarding a new stadium site, and the amendment would allow the team to discuss options with other interested parties.

In Sternberg's letter, he proposes that a new agreement won't be reached until the Rays and the City of St. Petersburg have reached a "mutually-acceptable resolution regarding how best to wind down our lease of Tropicana Field."

It goes on to say, "Once this amendment is approved, our first call will be to CityScape LLC to discuss its site and proposal in detail.  Our exploration of this proposal would be a key component of our evaluation of sites in the Tampa Bay area."

Mayor Bill Foster told ABC Action News he will review the proposed amendment and a written response will come in the next few weeks.

Still, he is reiterated the Rays have 15 more seasons to play and he wants the Rays to stay within city limits.

"It has never been about the money," said Foster.  "It is about being the home of the Tampa Bay Rays."

Council member Karl Nurse feels it is good the city and the Rays are talking. But, he doesn't want the Rays making their way out of the city either.

"We as a community, St. Petersburg and Pinellas County have a couple million dollars in this," said Nurse.  "So we are not just prepared to say, 'See ya, don't worry about it, it has been pleasant.'"

Nurse explained that the only way a deal could be struck is if it is a win-win for both sides.

"At the end of the day it has to work that everybody wins.  That if they have a another stadium that financially that works," he said.

Nurse went on to say it could come down to how much money the Rays are willing to write a check for.  The city, he says, would want to be compensated for a stadium sitting empty.

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