Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rays and Kriseman reach agreement to allow Hillsborough stadium search

ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman and the Tampa Bay Rays have negotiated an agreement to let the team search for new stadium sites in Hillsborough County in exchange for payments to the city if the team leaves before its contract at Tropicana Field expires in 2027.

Kriseman wants the City Council to approve the "memorandum of understanding" at its meeting on Thursday.

Payments would be based on how many years remain on the Trop lease if the Rays leave, starting at $4 million a season until December 2018, dropping to $3 million a season from 2019 to 2022 and $2 million from 2023 through 2026.

The Rays would have to make any remaining bond payments on the Trop, about $2 million a year. The city would cover demolition expenses.

The Rays and Kriseman declined to comment Monday but the mayor has scheduled a 10 a.m. news conference today at the Trop to discuss details.

Council member Charlie Gerdes said the agreement is "a very, very positive thing," which brings clarity to how much the Rays would pay the city if the team moves out of St. Petersburg.

"The real value of an agreement is removing subjectivity," Gerdes said. "It defines what the punishment will be, so to speak."

Though some residents will think the Rays aren't paying enough, Gerdes said, ''we're not at odds anymore, we're going forward together and that's a good thing," he said.

Council member Darden Rice agreed that the deal is a good one. She said she's cautiously optimistic that the Rays, after looking, will decide to stay in the city.

"St. Pete isn't the same city as it was five years ago. It just has a whole new direction and vibe," she said.

However, former Mayor Bill Foster said Kriseman has failed to protect taxpayers.

"The numbers . . . surprise me. It's just not enough," Foster said. "It's a terrible disservice to the people of St. Petersburg. Their interests are being sold out for peanuts."

Demolition of the dome, which would costs millions of dollars, could wipe out most of the compensation, Foster said. And that does not begin to take into account "the economic impact to the businesses and people of St. Petersburg," he said.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan said they were delighted. Both men have tried to woo the team across the bay for years.

"I commend Mayor Kriseman for his leadership on this issue," Hagan said.

If approved by the council, the deal would end a long standoff between the Rays and the city. The Rays contend that the Trop cannot support baseball in the long run because it is outdated and poorly located. Principal owner Stuart Sternberg has said he would not consider any new locations in St. Petersburg unless he could also look for sites in Tampa. Until Monday, city officials have refused to let him look.

Foster nearly reached a deal about a year ago, before talks broke off. After defeating Foster, Kriseman made a settlement with the Rays a high priority.

Key elements of the deal:

• The team can only look at locations in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

• The Rays have until December 31, 2017, to settle on a new site.

• If the team moves, it also will provide in-kind ongoing compensation of up to $1 million. This could include season tickets for marketing the city and signs in the new stadium touting St. Petersburg.

By agreeing to the memorandum now, the City Council will be locked into the compensation schedule and to what happens next.

The Rays would do traffic studies, cost estimates and get a general idea of what a new stadium would entail — both in Pinellas and Hillsborough — but they cannot sign contracts on a new site. If they find a location and financing they like, they would return to the city and negotiate a termination agreement.

Any disputes at that point would be settled by a circuit court judge in Manatee County.

For years, city officials worried that letting the team search for sites in Hillsborough County would undermine strong language in the Trop contract that binds the team to St. Petersburg.

If the Rays leave without permission, the contract says, it would cause "irreparable harm and damages'' to the city "that are not readily calculable in monetary terms.''

City attorney John Wolfe previously said that letting the Rays look for a new stadium in Tampa might constitute unspoken acknowledgment that maybe the team was not so valuable to the city after all. The Rays might then find it easier to leave the region because they would not have to worry so much about the city suing them.

The memo of understanding addresses this fear by saying it does not "nullify, excuse, or waive in any way or manner'' those previsions of the Trop contract.

Buckhorn said the Rays will take the lead in Tampa.

"This is not a process the city will drive," Buckhorn said.

What kind of public support could be available "will largely be determined by what the Rays are putting into it," Buckhorn said. "Certainly from the city's side, we are not entirely out of this recession."

Hagan said he would call the Rays to ask for a meeting with a working group that includes him, Buckhorn, Tampa Sports Authority president Eric Hart, Sykes Enterprises CEO Chuck Sykes and Fifth Third Bank Tampa Bay president Brian Lamb.

Hagan said Hillsborough County would not raise taxes for a stadium, but the project will need public money.

"There will never be another Raymond James Stadium sweetheart deal," Hagan said. "Clearly the Rays and the private sector will have to finance a significant portion of the costs associated with the stadium.''

Times staff writer Richard Danielson contributed to this report. Contact Stephen Nohlgren at

Where might they go?

Suitable sites for a Rays stadium in Tampa are getting harder to find. Read our previous report at

Rays and Kriseman reach agreement to allow Hillsborough stadium search 12/08/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 9, 2014 11:52am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Coquina Key Neighborhood Association to hold forum for District 6 council candidates

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Coquina Key Neighborhood Association is inviting residents to meet the crowded field of candidates running for St. Petersburg's City Council District 6 at a forum Monday evening.

    International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement-affiliated City Council candidate Eritha "Akile" Cainion pauses between answers during a forum at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront earlier this month. The Coquina Key Neighborhood Association plans to hold another forum on Monday evening from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Coquina Key Neighborhood Association Clubhouse, 3850 Pompano Drive SE. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  2. Lake Tarpon bass tournament still going strong after nearly 40 years (w/video)


    Matt Smith, left, and Gary Muchler, work to bring a large mouth bass into Smith's bass boat with only minutes to spare while fishing off Dolly Bay in Lake Tarpon during the Lake Tarpon Tuesday Night Bass Fishing Tournament on Tuesday (7/18/17). The fish sealed second place for the duo.
  3. Pinellas licensing board asks Sen. Jack Latvala for $500,000 loan

    Local Government

    The troubled Pinellas County agency that regulates contractors wants Sen. Jack Latvala to help it get a $500,000 lifeline from the state to stay afloat.

    State Sen . Jack Latvala, R- Clearwater, is being asked to help the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board get $500,000 from the state so it can stay open beyond February.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  4. Snooty the manatee's death prompts outpouring of support, petition to move Confederate monument


    BRADENTON — The South Florida Museum aquarium remains closed Monday and tributes continue to pour in following the shocking death of Snooty, the beloved manatee who captured the hearts of …

    Four-year-old Katie Blair pays her respects to Snooty at a makeshift memorial in front of the museum on Sunday. Katie and her family has visited the aquarium to see Snooty four times this year. 
Snooty was the world's oldest living manatee in captivity and celebrated his 69th birthday Friday at the aquarium. Aquarium officials described Snooty's death as a tragic accident and is being investigated. [LUIS SANTANA   |   Times]

  5. Clearwater mansion that sold at record price is back on the market for $19.75 million

    Real Estate

    CLEARWATER — Less than four months after it sold for a record $11.18 million, the waterfront Century Oaks estate is back on the market — for $19.75 million.

    The historic Century Oaks estate overlooking Clearwater Harbor, which sold for $11.18 million four months ago, is back on the market.
[Courtesy: Coastal Properties Group