During a City Council meeting last week, St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster, raised some eyebrows when he suggested that he had a “detailed plan” to keep the Rays in St. Petersburg. While Foster wouldn’t elaborate on the plan, he did say that the plan may not involve a new stadium.

After some question about whether there actually is a secret plan, Foster added another twist. He now says the plan is not his or the city’s, but rather it is just a plan that he has heard about.

“He said there are individuals working on some plan,” Jeff Danner said of his 20-minute meeting with Foster on Monday afternoon. “There are discussions going on with interested parties, and they’re focused on keeping the Rays here. He didn’t name any names”…Foster was emphatic that the plan wasn’t his. “He pounded home the idea that it’s not a city plan, that it’s not initiated by him or city staff,” Danner said.

Got that? Mysterious “individuals” and “interested parties” working on “some plan” because these mystery people really, really, really want to keep the Rays in St. Pete.

But then Foster seemed to contradict his own statements when he said “The people know everything that I know because it’s been in the media.”

Well, that’s weird. We don’t ever remember reading about a “detailed plan” to keep the Rays in St. Pete. Unless of course Mayor Foster is referring to the failed waterfront stadium proposal that the Rays unveiled four years ago.

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17 Comments

  1. Martin B says:

    The city doesn't need a plan. The Rays have a contract to play here. It's not really time to be renegotiating that. If the Rays want to renegotiate, then bring something to the table that compensates our city for what the team owes us.

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    • Beth says:

      Well, Martin, I assume any negotiations would involve "bringing something to the table" to compensate the city, but even getting to that point involves some willingness to consider multiple options, and Fosters hasn't demonstrated that willingness.

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    • IMO, the Rays owe St. Pete nothing. They belong to the Bay area.

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  2. Sledge says:

    We may all be missing the point her. A "detailed plan" to a politician may simply mean it took 2 napkins to write it on instead of 1.

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  3. Pablo says:

    It's time everybody realized that a new stadium has nothing to do with keeping the Rays in St. Petersburg. The owners want to be in a bigger market...period.

    The present owners don't believe they can dramatically increase their income in this market, even with a new stadium, and they are probably right. Even building a new stadium in Tampa would probably increase their per game attendance by only 3 - 4,000. Not really much of an increase.

    If the owners want 30,000+ per game attendance, they are going to have to move to a bigger market. I'm sure there are plenty of cities that would be willing to build a new stadium to get the Rays to move there. The Rays have proven they are winners the last 3 or 4 years, and are probably very marketable. This is an opportunity for the present owners to make a lot of money, both as a payment to move their team, and larger future box office receipts in a bigger market.

    I'm sure there is a "buy out" clause in their contract. All they have to do is find a city/market willing to to buy out the contract. The only way to keep the Rays here is for somebody to buy them. Somebody dedicated to keeping them here, (read "group").

    Is the mayor aware of a "group" putting together such an offer?

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    • Beth says:

      You may be right, Pablo, but I've seen some analysis -- the St. Pete Times covered this not long ago -- that suggests there actually aren't so many other markets better able to support a major league team as you might think. Las Vegas is a smaller area than ours and it's even harder hit by the recession. Charlotte's MSA is much smaller than ours. There's probably enough population to support a third team in the NY area but the existing teams won't allow it. So the Rays may WANT to find a robust new market, but that may not be as easy a task as one might think.

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      • Pablo says:

        I've heard San Antonio, Tex. tossed around. Also, New Orleans/Louisana doesn't have a team, nor does New Jersey, the Carolinas, Kentucky/Tennessee...maybe a move to Jacksonville? How about Omaha, Neb.? Who knows?...but as the economy heats up, more markets will be looking for a team and the Rays have finally established themselves as a competative/winning team, and are becoming more valuable eveyday.

        The stadium is not the problem. I've been to quite a few Rays games and the stadium is fine. It was built to play baseball in and fits that bill very well. It is comfortable, well lit, air conditioned and dry...just what is needed to play summertime baseball in this area. An open air stadium would be miserable, and many games would be delayed or rained out by our summer storms. Attendance would probably be even less than it is now. Who wants to sit in the hot afternoon sunshine, in 100 degree + heat?!!! Not me...I definitely would never go to another game if they move to an open air stadium. I won't go to a Bucs game because of the heat.

        It takes 30 minutes to drive from downtown Tampa to the stadium, 45 minutes from Lakeland, Zephyrhills, Bradenton or Sarasota, and an hour from Port Richey. I live in Ruskin and it takes me 35 minutes to get to the stadium. People will drive that far, or farther, to go to the Bucs, the state fair, or the beach, but not to the Trop?...why? The old saw that it is too far, or too congested, or not safe is a bunch of bull. It's as safe to park at Tropicana Field as it is at any other big venue. The truth is, is that there are not enough baseball fanatics in this area, to fill a stadium every game, the Trop or any other stadium.

        I like the Rays, and would hate to see them leave, but don't blame it on the stadium, or where it's at, or the team's performance...put the blame where it belongs...on the people of the area being to lazy, or cheap, to go to a game and support them. It's going to be up to the peope of this area, if the Rays stay or leave. If they don't support them, then they'll move somewhere else, and it will be very, very hard to ever get another team here.

        As the mayor says, a group dedicated to keeping the Rays here is the way to keep them. I sure hope that "group" is out there.

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  4. Don says:

    Foster changed his name& phone number...now call Barrack hoosane Foster! for complete details

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  5. Gus says:

    I think Foster must be referring to the plan a group called "Clutch hitters" is working on that the Times wrote about just a few weeks ago. No real mystery. Not sure why the Times wrote it that way. Do they read their own paper?

    What city leaders really need to do is to form a group of local people who will offer to buy the team from Sternberg so that there is not a breach of the Trop lease. No MLB team has ever breached its lease and it is tough to see it happening here; we're stuck with each other and if Sternberg doesn't enjoy both the psychic benefits of ownership (see Klosterman's exellent piece in Grantland) plus the tens of millions he pockets each year on behalf of the ownership group, then he should sell it back to the locals.

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    • Beth says:

      Great idea, Gus, but which locals? Ours is not exactly an area swimming in corporate wealth. Perhaps five years ago there would have been some real estate types who would have the means and the interest, but now?

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    • Pablo says:

      You are right. Sternberg cares nothing about this area or what the Rays mean to the people. He is only interested in how much money he can make, and wants to move the team to a market where he fells he can make more money...the hell with the people.

      I understrand baseball is a business, and the owners should make money. They put up the cash to get it started and are entitled to make a profit...but baseball is also a matter of attitude and pride for the people of the area. They don't just pay their money to go see a ball game played. They also take great pride in saying they went to see "their team" play, or that "their team" won, and to able to say, "I live where the Rays play!".

      The owners of a sports team should also be dedicated to the community and not be in it "just for the money".

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      • Amy says:

        How are the Rays not involved in the community? Have you missed all the programs, park renovations, and events put on by the Rays Baseball Foundation? Have you missed the numerous times TK is interviewing some local nonprofit group with about 100 or more sittinging the stands? It's hard to argue against how involved the Rays are. Just because they have said things that some people don't agree with about the stadium doesn't change what they have done in the nonprofits areas and what they have done on the the field and elsewhere. I don't even live in the area to see that. Going back to overall stadium issue, the Rays want to chance to look outside St. Pete since the waterfront stadium failed. The mayor has acted like a two year old not to give them at least that. Now he talking about some "secret plan" sounds like he has no idea how to fix any of the problems going on.

        Somebody who lives in Jacksonville and works for the minor league team here, the Rays are not moving here anytime soon. We have are own problems with outside markets wanting our football team so I want to clear that rumor up quickly.

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        • Beth says:

          Thanks Amy. The idea that Jacksonville and San Antonio are better markets that the Tampa Bay area is somewhat delusional. While both have slightly higher average wages, they are much smaller in population. If that's our competition I'm not worried.

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          • Gus says:

            The Rays owner doesn't live here (not even a condo; he stays at the Vinoy on the few days a year he is here). They are not a huge presence. But nor are the Bucs for that matter.

            Plenty of rich people in the area who could own the team. Not sure how many of them want to own a baseball team. But you've got money there, and I think the asset has shown that it could work.

            Somebody get the Spanxx lady on the phone. She married well and had millions on her own and is building the Clearwater beach home to end all beach homes, apparently. Clearwater girl coming home.

            One more local resident with the means and presumably the interest to buy the team: No. 2, Derek Jeter.

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          • Cork Gaines says:

            I'd bet money that Jeter becomes a minority owner of the Rays after he retires (assuming the team is still here).

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  6. Amanda says:

    According to the state's Sunshine Law, he's not allowed to have a secret plan.

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    • Beth says:

      No, that's not true. He can HAVE a secret plan, he just can't discuss it with other elected officials unless they are at a public meeting.

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