ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Bill Foster broke 12 days of media silence on the subject of the Tampa Bay Rays, submitting a two-page letter Tuesday to the St. Petersburg Times editorial board.
Foster describes his plan to keep the Rays as a broad strategy that includes supporting private groups and business professionals who are "knowledgeable about the economics of baseball and development."
He didn't disclose names of specific developers who might be working on such a plan, nor did he divulge all the details of the city's efforts.
"The city is prepared to address all challenges and scenarios, and since some may be undesired and unpleasant, these details of the plan will remain confidential," Foster wrote. "Awkward — yes, but we must balance the public's need to know against the city's future public interests."
In the letter, Foster strays from his St. Petersburg focus and calls his plan a strategy to keep the Rays "competitive in the Tampa Bay region." He said it's his strategy to protect the contract that binds the team to Tropicana Field through the 2027 season.
Last summer, club owner Stu Sternberg asked the city to let the Rays explore stadium locations outside Pinellas County, but the city refused.
Foster's letter addresses speculation about comments he made during an Aug. 18 council meeting. He told the council he had a detailed plan "on what we can do to keep the Rays in the city of St. Petersburg." While he said he had previously discussed the plan with council members, six of the eight members said afterward that they didn't know what plan he was referencing.
Foster then met privately with council members to explain what he meant, but refused to speak with Times reporters on the topic.
In his letter Tuesday, he pledged to work with the Rays to "develop a regional strategy for fan appeal for our club and Tropicana Field."
His words didn't impress council member Leslie Curran, who has pushed Foster to openly discuss the city's plans. "Basically, what he's done is remind us of the elements of the contract between the city and the Rays," she said. "He's reminded us that private enterprise is working toward a resolution. And he's reminded us of the importance of marketing in building fan support.
"This doesn't lay out anything for us except for everything we already knew."
Council member Karl Nurse said the letter helped clarify some, if not all, of his questions. As to private-sector efforts under way, more information needs to be made public, he said.
"The letter's level of detail wasn't that much," Nurse said. "But maybe it will force us to put together a plan that will give us a fighting chance to keep them."