ST. PETERSBURG — City leaders and Tampa Bay Rays’ senior leadership are set to meet on Tuesday, the first time the parties have formally communicated since the team’s announcement last month that it wishes to explore playing home games in Montreal.
According to Mayor Rick Kriseman’s calendar, he and Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin are scheduled to meet with Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg, president Brian Auld and executive assistant Diane Villanova on Tuesday at 3 p.m. The two-hour meeting is set for the old St. Petersburg police headquarters building, which is serving as a temporary City Hall while the real one undergoes renovations.
Kriseman has previously said Sternberg has not yet asked for permission to explore the Montreal proposal, which would have the team playing spring home games in the Tampa Bay region while the weather is milder and then finish the season in Montreal once temperatures have risen in Quebec. The idea also includes new open-air ballparks in both regions.
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City and team officials have not said what will be discussed at the meeting.
The team is bound to play its home games in Tropicana Field through 2027. And due to an “exclusivity clause” in the contract, the team is also forbidden from exploring playing home games anywhere else through the end of the term.
Therefore, the Rays need permission from St. Petersburg officials to more seriously consider the split-season proposal.
Kriseman initially blasted the idea, calling it “a bit silly” and dismissing it as a tactic in the negotiation for a new stadium. He vowed he would not recommend City Council grant the team permission. The mayor later said if the team wishes to privately finance a new stadium in St. Petersburg for half a season, he would be willing to listen. However, he and county leaders have said they would be reluctant to commit a considerable amount of public dollars to finance the construction of a part-time ballpark.
Most recently, Kriseman said permission would come at a cost to the team.
It would not be unprecedented for the city to suspend the exclusivity clause. City leaders gave the team a three-year window, from 2016 through 2018, to try for a new stadium across the Tampa Bay area. The team settled on a site in Ybor City, though the window closed without a formal deal in place.
Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 909-4613 or [email protected] Follow @ByJoshSolomon.