ST. PETERSBURG — If Mayor Bill Foster does have an overall plan to keep the Tampa Bay Rays from leaving town, today's 10 a.m. meeting with the City Council might be the time to reveal it.
At least, that's what Council member Leslie Curran hopes.
"We need to get a better understanding of where we are," Curran said. "What are our objectives, what is the mayor doing?"
Two months ago, there was much intrigue and speculation as to whether Foster had a secret plan to keep the Rays from leaving town. Foster was coy after he said during an August council meeting that he had such a plan.
Foster met with some council members privately to explain. But the general public was still in the dark about what, if anything, he was referring to. Foster said he can't reveal too much about the city's position because of a potential legal conflict with the Rays. But if he does have a plan, it could be a breakthrough in a stalemate between the city and the Rays.
The city has a use agreement that binds the Rays to Tropicana Field through the 2027 season. The Rays' principal owner, Stuart Sternberg, has said it's not economically possible for the team to continue playing at the Trop. He asked the city last year for permission to explore stadium options in Hillsborough County, but the city refused.
The two sides have not spoken with each other, at least publicly, ever since.
Frustrated by what she called Foster's lack of forthrightness on the issue, Curran made a motion August 18, which was passed by City Council, to discuss the city's use agreement with the Rays.
Today's agenda, set by Foster and the administration, sets up three items to be discussed today: a history of Major League baseball in St. Petersburg; a review of the agreement; and a discussion of the city's efforts to work with the Rays and chamber groups to promote better attendance, which was second worst in the league.
City Attorney John Wolfe said he hopes council members don't stray too far from the agenda.
"I don't want them to say anything that could weaken our position," Wolfe said. "Will they stick to that, who knows?
Curran said she's disappointed by the narrow focus of the meeting.
"We can discuss anything that needs to be discussed," Curran said. "It would be good to see what our overall approach should be. I think we'll stay within the bounds our attorney will set. I just hope it's a positive discussion
Michael Van Sickler can be reached at (727) 893-8037 or [email protected]