The Rays have agreed to meet with Hillsborough County officials in what could be a major first step in a process that ends up with the Rays moving into a new stadium on the east side of Tampa Bay. And as has become the norm in this saga, St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster may choose to fight the discussions with a lawsuit rather than try to be part of any possible solutions (via WTSP.com).

Earlier this week we learned that a Hillsborough County attorney had reviewed the Rays’ use-agreement contract with the city of St. Pete and had determined that the county would not be interfering with the contract if they had basic talks with the Rays about a new stadium.

The county commissioners then extended an invitation to the Rays to meet, an invitation that the Rays have accepted. The hope is that a meeting will occur after the season and will include a presentation by the Rays.

When Mayor Foster was asked about the latest developments, his response was to immediately reference St. Pete’s attorneys…

“We’ll just see how it works out. We have really good representation. I’m getting really good advice,” Foster said.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan who has long been the only political voice willing to fight the city of St. Pete, said he respects the St. Pete leaders, but that “it’s been nearly three years and they have been reluctant to do anything.”

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20 Comments

  1. Martin B says:

    While I generally don't like Mayor Foster or his policies, I'm glad he's enforcing city contracts.

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    • Martin B says:

      To be fair, I can't say I don't like Mayor Foster. I met him once at a charity event and he seemed a nice enough fellow. I don't like most of his policies concerning St. Pete.

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  2. Gus says:

    16 seasons down, 14 to go. I guess you can start warming up the car, but you may burn a lot of fuel.

    By the way, in terms of real people in the stands (and not tickets distributed), what has a relocation of the Marlins stadium done for them? Nobody in that ball park last Friday night. Couldn't have been 12,000 actual people there.

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    • Alex says:

      Would you go after the owner and gm sold off the whole team for no good reason after spending like mad men in the offseason?

      Why do people celebrate the Mayor being a major league douche like it's a good thing? The Rays will never succeed here and all he's doing is biding time until the Rays leave. He's acting like a 10 year old child with a failing business. It doesn't matter how much you tell him it's failing, he won't do a thing about it.

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      • Dave L says:

        I wouldn't call a business which doubles value for what the owner paid for it, after 8 years of ownership, while earning $20+ million last year, in this economy, a failure.

        This same business when compared with other franchises in the monopoly has also been critically acclaimed for achieving 'wins' equal to any the cartel over the past 5 years.

        This false idol of 'attendence' is garbage

        Look at the bottom lines

        Profit
        Value of Franchise
        Wins

        Show me the failure

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        • Gus says:

          The "false idol" of attendance is a great line. I'm stealing that one. Becomes a smaller and smaller part of the revenue pie every year for every franchise. If you keep your ballpark costs low like the Rays have, you have a no risk, profit-making machine.

          I actually think Sternberg realizes this. He's biding his time, letting the thing play out (occasionally complaining about his stadium), bathing in $100 bills all along the way. I saw the A's owner Lew Wolff on TV the other day and his kvetching about his stadum situation was so half-hearted it dawned on me that both the A's and Rays are under pressure from their other owners to extract new ball parks, but they both realize it isn't in their best interests to push it now, in this down economy, and cut a sorry deal that will hurt their revenue share.

          By the time we get to 2020, the MLB revenue picture is going to have changed so much, that the planning for a successor to the Trop will look totally different than it does today, and different from 2008 when Sternberg wanted to build an open air park on the St. Petersburg waterfront (people who now conclude the location is the only problem conveniently forget that episode).

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      • Beazy says:

        aha Alex, don't believe everything you read. Besides, if they can run 1 of sports best franchise of the last 5yrs. in a tent, in the middle of St. Pete in the middle of summer, surrounded by water, all will work in a state of the art ball park in west Florida's most populated area, there be alright...

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        • Andy says:

          I've read Alex's comment @ 4 times & each time I do, I still conclude that he's talking about Mayor Fischer when he mentions him acting like a 10 y/o with a failing business. In that paragraph, the Mayor is the only identified subject to which any susequent references can be made. Nowhere does he mention the Rays organization or Stu Sternberg. Admittedly, I could be wrong b/c he is unclear who he's talking about in 1st paragraph; I think it's the Marlins, in reference to comment preceding his.

          Many good comments followed, so maybe the confusion was good :)

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          • Alex says:

            Yes I was talking about the Marlins in the first part of my comment and the Mayor in the second part. I know the Rays are making money. I get that. But they aren't making money to the point where Stu will spend more to get better players. Until the Rays start throwing money out for some decent hitters, and I don't mean absurd $100 million contracts, they are going to be absolutely mediocre looking for a lot of games. I'll be honest, I love the Rays 100%, but if I had no affiliation with the Rays, would they be a team I would want to watch on a daily basis? Hell no. I would watch the Angels, Rockies, Rangers, Dodgers etc...

            In the end it doesn't really matter what we say though. If the Rays toil here until the end of their contract and Stu is still the owner, then you can sure as hell bet he will take the team somewhere else if he can't get a new stadium. Then everyone that supports the mayors 5 year old child stance can be happy with having no team and not having to pay for a stadium. Then we can all cheer for the Florida Marlins

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      • Martin B says:

        Why does the Mayor have a responsibility to give money or tax breaks to one private business over another? He wants the Rays to honor their contract. If they want to make an offer to the city to buy out of their contract, I'm sure the Mayor would listen.

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    • Beth says:

      Planning for a new stadium -- whether it's in St. Pete or elsewhere -- requires a good ten year lead time. And the costs to the Rays of getting out of their lease with St. Pete goes down each year. A few years back, the then St. Pete Times had a really good special section that included a timeline of the remaining years of the Rays' lease, with an analysis of the point at which breaking it became relatively inexpensive for the Rays to do (of course I can't find that article now that I need it). That time is approaching.

      So to me, Foster's position that he won't be part of any conversation about a post-Tropicana Field world is very short-sighted.

      The Rays will be planning, NOW, for where they will play ten years down the road. That would be true even if they adored their site - they'd still be looking ahead to replacing an outdated stadium.

      St. Pete can be part of that conversation, or the city can refuse to be part of the conversation, in which case they will not have a baseball team, nor will they get much in return for losing the team.

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      • Gus says:

        The Times article (borrowing heavily from the Rays agrument to the City) was assuming that the exit of the lease was just the payoff of the debt (in a settlement scenario). I doubt any judge anywhere is going to let them walk on the lease when the stadium is still standing. That is why (I think) they re-instituted the idiotic catwalk rule (after finally adopting a common sense catwalk rule for the playoffs in 2010): it gives them some argument that the building isn't suitable (like if the roof collapsed, etc). Of course 1000 home games played, including playoff and the World Series, makes that argument pretty weak. But they've got nothing but weak legal arguments because they bought the team subject to the lease. If the Rays had a Camden Yards stadium, these guys would have never been able to get into the MLB owners club because they didn't have that kind of $.

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        • Beth says:

          But Gus, that's just quibbling over how much it will cost them to walk, and whether they can afford to do that in 2017 or 2023.

          But surely you can't imagine that Tropicana Field will be a viable place to play, without major renovations, ten years from now? And surely you understand that any replacement stadium will require a decade of planning/construction before it's ready? So given those two facts (and I think I'm on pretty firm ground with both those statements), doesn't someone, somewhere, need to start a conversation now about what comes next?

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          • Gus says:

            Beth: Have you been to the Trop lately? Is there anything in there that is a health hazard? Falling beams (like Old Yankee Stadium)? If it is just beauty (or lack thereof), I'd note that Major League Baseball was played in the Metrodome until 2009 because they had a lease for much of that, and then as it ran out, they got their new stadium. Absent significant private funding and/or an economic expansion akin to Silicon Valley, that is what is going to happen here.

            Hillsborough has no revenue to replace the Trop even if they could sneak out of the lease. People who don't follow public policy and local government seem to think stadiums grow on trees. They don't. They come from local sales taxes, tourist/bed taxes and/or property taxes. The Bay Area is tapped out on those sources. Thank the Steinbrenners and the idiots like Tom McEwen who championed a short-sighted approach to bring the Yankees to town after the Trop was built. Thank the dolts who financed a giant fish tank in the middle of an industrial port. Thank those who financed the Ice Palace/Forum, a building that has always underperformed its financial projections and required additional subsidies from the County. Hillsborough can talk, but they have nothing concrete in $ to offer the Rays. Pinellas has the $ to get them a new stadium (after 2016 or so when the first set of bonds pay off), but the Rays don't (currently) want Pinellas. Thus, a stalemate.

            In Stu's backyard you may be on firm ground. In Florida, that position is in quicksand.

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          • Martin B says:

            Beth,

            Isn't your 10 year timeline a bit long? During the "Major League Downtown" fiasco (which I foolishly supported at the time), weren't they planning on having the stadium up for the 2014 season? Wasn't the Major League Downtown push in 2008?

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  3. Joe says:

    If we actually get a new stadium, I want the first thing we do is to extend David Price very long term.

    I wanted Evan to be Tulo'd for a while but just like Tulo, he can't stay on the field.

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  4. Beazy says:

    "what could be a major first step in a process", nah, it's more like a major MIDDLE step. I find it hard to believe that Stu been sitting at the Trop doing nothing about a new ballpark because big Bill said so, com'on, Stu's a Wall Street investor from Goldman Sachs, they do what they want when they want, and usually make money doing it, luckily for us he's the boss of OUR team. Though there's a lot of speculation of where the new Trop is going to be built at, according to my sources it's going across the way from the TBT Forum, and will be a part of a bigger plan to turn that area into Tampa's playground with the completion of the Riverwalk, and the reconstruction and makeover of Channelside's plaza, the Aqua., ect.. So I would imagine that when they "officially" meet with Hillsborough's officials, that it's going to be a hey, how ya doin', oha, yah, we're (Stu, his people, the Lightning's owner, his people, etc.) going to continue to do what we do, we'll be expecting some of the taxes dollars, you'll make it back, thank you". And, if they build it the "Rays way", we should have the nicest ballpark in the world, for a lot less $ then most other parks cost these days... (?)

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  5. s says:

    cork,
    will miami still get their welfare check from MLB for the next few years. if so, how has anything changed, they still can't support themselves.

    anybody want to bet me that the marlins are in the 22K average in less than 3 years with actual attendance dipping below 15K on some nights?

    do any of you honestly think the rays will draw 30K a night in a new stadium after 5 years of it being built?

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    • Gus says:

      No. I don't believe the Rays will draw more than 25K in Tampa, esepcially if they have to finance a portion of the park (which will cause them to cut payroll and raise prices). For this market, the Trop is the best place for them in the next 10 years until the market grows again and can afford to build them a new stadium with minimal team contribution (or a new owner with unlimited resources comes in and purchases them -- paging Derek Jeter).

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