St. Petersburg's next mayor left his first meeting with ousted Mayor Bill Foster sounding a lot like a defeated incumbent on one subject.
"The challenge in going forward with the Rays is significant, in finding a solution that's in the best interest of our taxpayers," Rick Kriseman told FOX 13 News, leaving a two-and-a-half hour meeting that "...was primarily just getting background on what's been happening with the Rays."
The mayor-elect said the city attorney, its senior administrator and two other city staffers joined Foster in the meeting.
During the mayoral campaign, Kriseman said the baseball team's ownership had lost trust in Foster.
"I'd had discussions with the Rays, with [Rays president] Matt Silverman, but I had not obviously been privy to some of those discussions yet with the mayor," Kriseman admitted Wednesday. "So I'm getting a different side of the story and obviously it's something I'll take into consideration going forward."
The Rays have a lease on Tropicana Field through the 2027 baseball season, under a contract that forbids looking at other stadium sites without permission from the city. The contract language also refers to "incalculable damages" caused by ending the contract prematurely.
The franchise wants permission to look elsewhere in the Tampa Bay area for a site for a new stadium, with the probability of moving out of Tropicana Field before 2027.
Mayor Foster has attempted, unsuccessfully, to negotiate an "exploration fee," as well as pre-determined compensation for breaking the current lease. In the past, Foster has attempted to explain the taxpayers' interest in an investment that cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Soon it will become Kriseman's issue to resolve.
"There's certainly elements of the discussions that I was unaware of, which is to be expected because a lot of it is confidential," Kriseman said after his briefing. "It's always interesting getting a different side of the story."
The mayor-elect said he and Rays owner Stuart Sternberg are trying to arrange their first face-to-face meeting.
"That meeting would be more social than anything initially. I'm not mayor yet, and until I'm sworn in, I don't want to have any substantive conversations with him," Kriseman explained. "But it would be appropriate, I think, for he and I to at least introduce ourselves to each other and start to build that relationship up, so that we can get into substantive discussions."
Kriseman will take office January 2nd. He said he doubts Mayor Foster will meet again with team officials.
"It doesn't make sense for them to spend time having negotiations with him when my take may be different. It may be the same, but it just doesn't make sense from a standpoint of investing time and energy."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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