It was billed as an "exploration fee," to let the Rays look at Pinellas and Hillsborough County for possible locations for a new stadium.
St. Petersburg Councilman Charlie Gerdes proposed it. It would require the Rays to pay $1.42 million for up to three years, which is the city's annual operating subsidy on Tropicana Field.
"This amendment allows them to look, not to leave. It doesn't intend for them to leave, it doesn't invite them to leave. It allows them to look," Gerdes said.
But council members balked at the idea.
They first heard from the city attorney warning them not to discuss the Rays.
He said the city is in the best negotiating position with the Rays and any discussions could weaken that.
"I don't want to disparage owners, but they have certain goals and certain aims and they will take advantage of any opportunity to obtain their goals," explained John Wolfe.
The Rays have said the fans aren't coming to St Pete. They want to explore every location possible, including sites in Hillsborough County.
Mayor Bill Foster said if you offer an exploration fee, the city should force the Rays to open their books, to see how dire their financial situation really is.
"Put that in there. If it's all about money, open up your books. Don't tell us you can't have 20,000 fans in the seats on average and tell me you've got a money problem," Foster said.
Council members all agree they have to find a way to get the conversation going again. Councilmember Curran even joked the two sides might need help.
"Two words that might help us out is ‘couple's therapy'," he joked.
After more than an hour discussing the exploration fee, council members chose not to entertain that amendment.
Councilman Gerdes amended it and said instead, they could have their attorney look into the fee and see what basis it has. But even that did not get council approval.
So it is back to square one with neither side talking.
Mayor Foster did say his people are talking to the Rays' people and he hopes for a face-to-face meeting at some point.
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