Stephen Nohlgren of the St. Pete Times spoke to several people, including St. Pete Mayoral candidates about whether or not the Tampa Bay Rays can get out of their lease and move to another city.
One of the biggest sticking points may be how a judge interprets the lease and whether the Rays are a tenant or a business partner.
Most leases call for rent payments over a specified term. If tenants leave early, courts usually award the landlord whatever money is owed for the full term…City officials are quick to stress that the Trop contract is a not a lease and little rent is paid…The contract is a “use agreement,” they say. The Rays got a stadium in 1996 under original owner Vince Naimoli. In return, he and any successors pledged to play there for 30 years.
Some think the lease is “ironclad.” Others think a judge “could refuse to enforce key provisions,” or even refuse to enforce the 17-18 years that remain on the Trop’s lease.
Then-city attorney Michael Davis warned St. Petersburg council members that injunctive relief was not a guarantee when they approved the 1995 contract. “It is largely within the discretion of the court,” Davis said at the time. “There is no certainty that you will obtain it.”
Nohlgren goes on to argue that even if the city of St. Pete could fight an attempt by the Rays to leave, they may not want to, noting that a buyout may be a better option.
Can St. Pete keep the Rays from moving across the bay or farther? The answer to that right now is a gigantic “maybe.” But if a fight erupts and it does get to that point, and a new stadium is not built, stopping a move would only delay the inevitable.
New stadium for Rays? What the lease has to say [St. Pete Times]