St. Petersburg City Council makes offer to Rays
ST. PETERSBURG---The City Council offered the Tampa Bay Rays an olive branch Thursday, approving a plan that would require the team to pay more than it has previously offered, but a deal which its author called a "substantial compromise."
The 5-3 vote on council member Jim Kennedy's plan, which would cost the team $33 million if they left Tropicana Field by 2020 was the more expensive of two plans presented.
And the sides on the longstanding stalemate almost completely switched. Three of the four members who supported previous deals voted against Kennedy's proposal: Darden Rice, Amy Foster and Charlie Gerdes, who had his plan that never came to a vote.
Gerdes said he thought Kennedy's offer was too expensive: "too much of a backwards jump" and pleaded with Kennedy to lower his $4 million yearly payment that the team would be required to pay once they vacated the Trop.
But Kennedy held firm.
Karl Nurse, who had supported previous attempts by Mayor Rick Kriseman to broker a deal with the team, voted for Kennedy's plan. He said he would have voted for Gerdes' plan, too. Anything to get the city off the dime, he said.
"I think this plan has zero chance of being accepted by the Rays," Nurse said after the vote. "But if you've ever bought a house you know, you make an offer and hope they counter."
Council members Steve Kornell, Wengay Newton and Bill Dudley voted with Kennedy. Previously, those four council members had opposed any deal.
Kriseman said he would take any offer approved by the council to the Rays, but he said he was concerned the team wouldn't respond well.
"Typically, offers don't get better with time" Kriseman said.
Gerdes said he thought his plan --which would have cost the team by $22 million-- was a better deal , but the important thing was the council "put the ball in play."
Mayor Rick Kriseman was dubious. The Rays have said they won't pay more to look for alternate stadium sites in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.
"Typically, you don't see offers get better with time. So that's a concern. The other concern is that the amount that the Rays are being asked to pay is more than they were asked to pay the first time," Kriseman said after the vote.
The discussion during the special meeting was uncharacteristically short, lasting about an hour and fifteen minutes. Council members Amy Foster and Darden Rice didn't speak at all.
Rays general counsel John Higgins attended the meeting, but left immediately without making any comment.
Kennedy's plan would require the team to pay a $5 million charge for demolition and $4 miliion a year once they vacate the Trop. If they leave in 2020, the Rays would pay $33 milliion.
"I hope we did good. I hope we don't look back at this and regret it. I hope the Rays accept it and we can move forward," Kennedy said