Rays' letter presents council with political hot potato - FOX 13 News

Rays' letter presents council with political hot potato

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

The Tampa Bay Rays apparently like a proposal for new stadium in Carillon enough to talk about it.

"We truly appreciate the effort CityScape LLC has put into its proposal," Rays' owner Stuart Sternberg said in a letter to St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, "We very much look forward to talking about it."

But Sternberg added a familiar catch.

"...an evaluation of only one site would clearly be an incomplete and inconclusive exercise," the letter said.

LINK: Read the letter here.

So Sternberg suggests the Rays' lease on Tropicana Field be amended to permit site searches in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties "...while specifically prohibiting an agreement with any of those parties until the Rays and the City of St. Petersburg have reached a mutually-acceptable resolution regarding how best to wind down our lease of Tropicana Field."

"That sounds like to me that they're packing bags," city councilman Wengay Newton opined during a brief discussion of the freshly-arrived letter at a city council workshop.

City attorney John Wolfe told councilmembers he foresees an uncomfortable situation, hypothetically.

"They negotiate something tentatively with somebody in Hillsborough County. They come to us and say, ‘alright, it's time to unwind the agreement,' " Wolfe explained. "We sit down and we have rather harsh terms. And immediately, the newspaper is all over us for being unreasonable when in fact we may not be.".

In Wolfe's opinion, the city council could be taken political hostage.

"Being in the position of causing the team to leave the region. You will have pressure on you to not veto it, and that's my concern," Wolfe told city councilmembers.

Mayor Bill Foster said he will meet individually with councilmembers before responding to the Sternberg. Under the existing lease, neither side can talk about playing home games anywhere but the Trop without formally amending the lease.

"I love the Trop," Foster told FOX 13 News. "I think the Trop will be suitable through 2027. So any discussion about future facilities are strictly at [the Rays'] request."

He also suggested a lot of closed-door meetings will be part of the process.

"If there are going to be negotiations, I want to do it directly with our partners [the Rays], and I want the city council at every step of that," Foster said. "One thing we don't do is negotiate through the media."

City attorney Wolfe also cautioned councilmembers about Florida's government in the sunshine laws. If councilmembers have questions or suggestions, he gave very specific instructions.

"Call me....do not email me....don't put anything in writing," Wolfe said.

LINK: See the Carillon proposal


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