St. Petersburg council members voted 5-3 on Thursday to approve a deal that allows The Rays to search outside the city for a new stadium location.
Council members Jim Kennedy, Steve Kornell, Ed Montanari voted against the deal.
“I want to thank our City Council for approving this important Memorandum of Understanding with the Tampa Bay Rays," Mayor Rick Kriseman said in a statement. "This agreement is good news for baseball fans, for our taxpayers, for the city of St. Petersburg, and for our entire region. I still believe the team’s current site, reimagined and redeveloped, is the best place for a new stadium, and I look forward to making the case for the Sunshine City.”
The approval came after a discussion freighted with talk of St. Petersburg’s future and reminders that the deal doesn’t require the team to stay in Tampa Bay.
The deal, the third proposal put forth by Kriseman, requires The Rays to provide the city with a general description of the process it will use to evaluate potential stadium sites – a less detailed document than one required under a previous version.
The team must search for at least six months, a length of time meant to give St. Petersburg enough time to make the case that “the Rays’ current location, enhanced by future development, is the best long-term location.”
The Rays must pay for half, but no more than $100,000, for a master plan for Tropicana Field with and without a new stadium.
If the city and team enter into an agreement, any development proceeds for Tropicana Field will be put into an interest-bearing account controlled by St. Petersburg. If the team stays, they split the money (not including interest). If the team decides to remain in St. Petersburg only until the end of their current agreement, which is beyond 2025, it would still get half the money. If the team leaves, however, the city would keep all the money in the account.
The agreement also requires the team to make annual payments if it leaves early, a payout of up to $24 million.
“The provisions serve as an incentive for the Tampa Bay Rays to remain in St. Petersburg and may provide them with a portion of the funds to build a new stadium,” Kriseman said in the memo detailing the proposal. “In fact, the team could potentially serve as the developer of the site. These provisions also allow for the city to pursue development opportunities now without potentially paying the club 50 percent of the net proceeds.”