Gerdes has plan to restart Rays talks with city
St. Petersburg City Council Chairman Charlie Gerdes has a plan to jumpstart stalled negotiations with the Tampa Bay Rays on their quest for a new stadium.
And he plans to present it to his council colleagues by the end of October or early November, just about the same time that the Pinellas County Commission will take up the Atlanta Braves' plan to move its spring training to Toytown, a former landfill and a potential stadium site, Gerdes said Wednesday.
Comments made to the Tampa Bay Times by county officials last week about the county not waiting around forever for the city and the Rays to make a deal struck a chord, Gerdes said.
"I took that to heart," Gerdes said. "Part of doing this is to open the dialogue back up again."
Basically, Gerdes will propose a hybrid plan that revives his previous idea of charging the Rays an "exploration fee" equal to the annual subsidy that the city gives to the team---currently $1.4 million a year--for each year they look. If they look for a week, they'll owe the full amount. The team would only be allowed to search in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties for "four or five" years, he said, before that right is terminated.
If the team decides to build in St. Petersburg or Pinellas, then there would be no more payments. If the Rays decide to build in Hillsborough County, they'll owe a set yearly payment of around $2.5 million for each year they don't play at Tropicana Field until the city's contract with the team expires in 2027.
That figure is based on the sales tax revenue of what the team generates in economic activity in St. Petersburg.
Gerdes said he hasn't decided what to do for the three or four years between the team selecting a site and actually vacating the Trop. Maybe they'll pay nothing, maybe they'll continue to pay the exploration fee. Maybe, something in between.
That's all up for negotiation.
"I fully expect a counter offer," Gerdes said.
He said he hasn't talked to the Rays about the deal. The Rays couldn't be reached immediately for comment.
The advantage of Gerdes' plan, he said, is that it responds to the concerns of some council members who have voted against previous deals. For example, Bill Dudley hasn't liked the "sliding scale" of back end payments included in a failed plan by Mayor Rick Kriseman. A fee to look has appealed in the past to other council members.
And allowing council to debate and shape a deal at the outset removes the risk of another up and down vote that prolongs the stalemate, Gerdes said.
"It removes that element of uncertainty," he said.
Check back to Bay Buzz for more details on this breaking story.