Consider it a letter of warning.
The city of St. Petersburg is threatening to sue any Hillsborough County official who even discusses baseball stadium locations outside of Pinellas County, escalating the level of animosity between both sides of the Bay area.
And the Tampa Bay Rays stand right in the center of it.
Back in August, Hillsborough County invited the Rays to appear before commissioners and talk a little baseball. The Rays accepted, even though a meeting date hadn't been set. But now a letter sent from St. Pete's attorney may throw a wrench into things.
In the letter, attorney John Wolfe says St. Petersburg will regard any discussions with the Rays' stadium location as interference, and they say they'd even sue.
"The Tampa Bay Rays are a valued community asset of the City of St. Petersburg," the letter says. "The Use Agreement between the City of St. Petersburg and the Rays requires the Rays to play their home games at Tropicana Field through the 2027 Major League Baseball season. Prior to any new venue discussions taking place, the City must be agreeable to such discussions and execute the necessary amendment to the Use Agreement permitting such discussions."
St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster has said Hillsborough can talk with the Rays about how to get more fans to the Trop, but that's it. He says they're still looking for a solution in St. Pete.
The Rays' attendance has been near the bottom of the MLB for quite some time, and many believe it's because of location. A more centralized location, say Hillsborough, might bring more fans.
But there's a provision in the Rays' contract with the city that requires the team to play at the Trop until 2027. The Rays seem to recognize they need a new place to play.
They are looking at a development group's pitch to build a new stadium at the Carillon Business Park, which would keep the team in St. Petersburg. Foster has requested that the Rays meet with the developer, and the Rays have agreed.
On one condition: If they could explore sites in Hillsborough as well. The city hasn't responded to that request yet – only issuing another warning to Hillsborough in the letter.
"Please be advices the City of St. Petersburg holds out relationship with the Rays, including the Use Agreement, in the highest regard, and will seek to protect our relationship and rights against any attempted interference," the letter says.
LINK: Read the letter
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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