The Tampa Bay Rays would like a new stadium to call their home. Rays owner Stuart Sternberg has made it clear that downtown St. Petersburg is not an option moving forward. The Rays currently have a lease with St. Petersburg and Tropicana Field that runs through 2027, thus complicating any plans to move the club’s home to downtown Tampa or elsewhere in the region. While the issue of funding construction of a new stadium remains at the heart of the matter, Sternberg and the Rays’ hopes received a boost on Wednesday.
Charlie Gerdes, a St. Petersburg councilman, proposed an amendment to the city’s contract with the Tampa Bay Rays that would allow the baseball club to explore stadium options in neighboring Hillsborough County. Gerdes’ proposal comes on the heels of St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster and Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn engaging in stadium discussion with CBS affiliate, WTSP. Gerdes’ plan calls for an annual $1.4 million payment to be made to the city of St. Petersburg, which is equal to city’s yearly cost to maintain Tropicana Field.
Rays Vice President, Michael Kalt, released the club’s first official statement on the stadium saga through a spokesperson:
“We are pleased that the council is taking up this issue. We appreciate that Councilman Gerdes has brought it up for discussion. It is going to take a number of conversations to help move this along, and we look forward to greater collaboration with St. Petersburg.”
One perceived blockade to the Rays new stadium talks is the burden levied upon taxpayers by the construction of
Jeffrey Loria’s FAP station the Miami Marlins’ new ballpark. Foster, in protecting his city’s interests, subtly cited Marlins Park and the city of Miami is deterring motivation for the state to get behind any publically funded stadium plans (via WTSP):
“I think the economy, certainly, is hindering anyone’s desire to publicly finance a new stadium,” Foster said, explaining his hesitation to rush a new stadium project. “The city of Miami has killed (motivation) for the state of Florida when it comes to publicly-financed stadiums. And I think the idea of having to redevelop (the current Tropicana Field footprint of) 85 acres…we’re not coming out of that recession yet.”
In an interesting twist, the Florida Senate Commerce Committee lent unanimous support to a bill that would clear a path for $400 million in renovations for the Miami Dolphins home at Sun Life Stadium. Miami-Dade lawmakers were quick dismiss the proposed plans from their 2013 priorities list. The bill, which is predicated on a higher hotel bed tax rate and a new sales tax rebate, faces an uphill battle at passing through Legislation. Blame it on the sour taste lingering in the mouths of taxpayers from the neon edifice erected in Little Havana last year.
So it sounds as though, even with Gerdes seemingly well received proposal, that stadium talks are set to idle for the foreseeable future. The publicly funded stadium avenue is not a popular route in Florida these days, or elsewhere for that matter. The Dolphins perhaps hold the slightest bit of leverage with the state, given that they have the allure of attracting an event like the Super Bowl down the road with a freshly renovated stadium.
St. Petersburg city council is scheduled to discuss Gerdes’ proposed amendment on Thursday morning.