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.