Sunday, May 27, 2018
News Roundup

St. Petersburg City Council says developer can pitch Tampa Bay Rays stadium plan

The St. Petersburg City Council passed a resolution Thursday night that will allow a prominent real estate developer to pitch a plan for a new baseball stadium.

Darryl LeClair, head of CityScape, sent a letter last week to Mayor Bill Foster asking for an audience to pitch a new baseball stadium in the Carillon business park. He also asked for assurance that the city would not view the pitch as meddling into the stalemate between the city and Tampa Bay Rays over a new stadium.

The resolution invited CityScape to present its plan to the council, but it barred the company from discussing a new plan directly with the Rays — unless the team signs an amendment to its current use agreement with the city.

For now, prohibiting LeClair from dealing with the Rays is somewhat moot in that the Rays have said they have no interest in meeting with the developer, or anyone else with a Pinellas stadium proposal, unless the city also lets them explore stadium possibilities all over the Tampa Bay area.

City attorney John C. Wolfe told the council that if it permitted the team to deal directly with CityScape, that might allow the Rays to claim that the council had waived its exclusivity agreement, which currently restricts the team from dealing with any entity other than the city.

That allowance, Wolfe said, would open the door for the Rays to leave the region, which he said he believes is the organization's ultimate goal.

Principal owner Stuart Sternberg has said repeatedly he does not intend to move the Rays out of the region but has left the door open to the possibility of selling the team to someone who might. A Rays spokesman on Thursday declined to comment.

The proposed amendment would let the Rays negotiate with any developers who want to build a stadium in St. Petersburg. The council would still have to approve the prospective developers and would maintain veto power over any deals.

Council Chair Leslie Curran, the only dissenting vote, questioned what kind of precedent the resolution would set for other developers interested in proposing new stadium ideas.

Other proposals, Wolfe said, would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Several council members said the proposed amendment could clarify the Rays' real intentions.

"We'll learn very quickly," Dudley said, "if our partners are interested in a St. Pete solution."

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