St. Petersburg City Council votes 5-3 against MOU allowing Rays to explore Tampa

The Rays and St. Petersburg appeared to have a deal in place that would allow the team to look at potential ballpark sites in Tampa for a price. Tonight, St. Pete’s City Council voted against the MOU, 5-3. Both sides of the issue were well argued. In the end the Council believed the City was getting a raw deal, with no assurances that the Rays would continue to work with St. Pete, while also tying up the Tropicana Field site for future development while they stayed there.

For much more complete coverage, go to Noah Pransky’s Shadow of the Stadium site.

At this point I’m more interested in next steps by baseball and the Rays. Last week Rays owner Stuart Sternberg indicated that he would sell the team to an owner who would definitely move them out of the region if the Tampa exploration agreement didn’t happen. Now that the Council has rejected the deal, we’ll see if more threats, lawyers, or other tactics come out of the woodwork. I fully expect Rob Manfred, who is no stranger to playing the heavy, to start wielding a large stick aimed at St. Pete toot de suite.

The Rays are still stuck at the Trop for the near future, but it’s easy to see how MLB and Rays ownership (Sternberg or not) could try to test the strength of the Rays’ use agreement (technically not a lease) at the domed stadium.

Somewhat ironically, the Council also approved workshopping a new ballpark study somewhere in the St. Pete city limits. How that happens with the team they just rejected is anyone’s guess.

15 thoughts on “St. Petersburg City Council votes 5-3 against MOU allowing Rays to explore Tampa

  1. Wonder if this will spur the Rays ownership to begin looking outside the Tampa Bay Area?

    • And what… Pay rent through 2027 on a site they aren’t using? Get some other, suboptimal market to pony up a free park and an annual subsidy to cover it? That would make the Oakland blunder of Mt. Davis look like a good deal.

  2. If they want to contract, they would need a second team to also contract. Wonder, for the life of me, what the second team would be? Anybody want to guess?

    • The A’s will never be contracted. If anything some team would be merged with the Athletics franchise. Too much history to just throwaway. Besides don’t forget the power of the MLB Union.

      • Yep. MLB is gonna be a $10 billion/year league either next year or 2016. Any effort towards contraction will be swiftly met by antitrust legislation and lawsuits.

  3. The lawyer that wrote the agreement is pretty good at his job, from everything I read. It’s interesting the city didn’t cave. The team would be wise to come back with more to give. Interesting that a municipality is finally holding all the cards. I don’t blame them. I also disagree with the Tampa newspaper editorial.

  4. Apparently, the “use agreement” MLB was eager to sign so it could get those expansion fees locks the Rays in pretty tightly. Remember when MLB wanted out of the agreement and Tampa said, pay for each year of the lease and pay for the demolition of the ballpark? Selig responded that MLB should offer nothing. So, MLB stays stuck in Saint Petersburg. Pretty funny stuff.

  5. I’m sure MLB is livid that the St. Petersburg City Council is holding the Rays hostage by enforcing the terms of the Rays’ current Tropicana Field lease. This is being done in order to keep the team from being able to break their lease, and then searching for and possibly moving to a better venue in the Tampa-Hillsborough County area of the Tampa Bay market. Does this all sound familiar? In an indirect way, the St. Petersburg City Council is giving MLB a dose of their very own medicine.

  6. Here is the thing… The Selig as consensus builder meme is true, the truth is consensus builders are great at moving the status quo forward, but horrible at confronting big problems that won’t result in a win/win.

    There is no win/win for the A’s and Giants. There is no win/win for the Rays and St. Pete. In one case, you have shared market in which one team gets 2/3d’s of the revenue and sees the win as getting 3/3d’s. In the other you have a city that is staring at having a team through 2027, or losing it to a neighboring city in 3-4 years. Which seems like a win to you?

    Maybe Manfred will come in with a bit more of a vision and a willingness to make people unhappy to get there. But I doubt it.

  7. How much money do the Rays still owe on their lease? The club has to be losing money playing in the Trop; one would think it would make sense to break the lease and get out of a bad situation than stay there for another 13 years and play in front of Florida Panther type crowds.

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