St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster says the Rays should be allowed to explore options for a new stadium in Hillsborough County, the Tampa Bay Times reported Monday.
It's a major reversal for the mayor, who has for years insisted that the Rays remain in St. Petersburg through the end of their contract in 2027.
The Times reported that Foster sat down for a "remarkably candid" interview with its editorial board where he said poor attendance numbers led him to change his mind.
"You've got the hottest team in baseball, you're in a fight in the AL East, and you're not breaking 20,000. That sends a message to a lot of people,'' Foster told the Times.
Foster wants to keep the Rays in the Tampa Bay area through 2050, but questions whether it is a "major league region," the Times reported.
Foster and the Rays have been in a long-running standoff where the Rays have sought to look for new stadium locations outside downtown St. Petersburg, and Foster has fought to keep them there.
Tropicana Field was largely paid for with state, county and city of St. Petersburg tax dollars, and Foster has said it's his obligation to protect that investment.
But Rays' owners say Tropicana Field is outdated and obsolete, and a new stadium is needed to attract more fans to the stands. Without it, the possibility exists that the Rays would end up leaving the Tampa Bay area, taking a major economic engine with it.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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