Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough commission chairman wants legal opinion about talking with Tampa Bay Rays

TAMPA — Ken Hagan says he doesn't believe a contract between the city of St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Rays prevents other governments from talking with the team about its future in the region.

But to be sure, the Hillsborough County Commission chairman will ask permission from his fellow board members to have their attorney research the issue and report back. He'll make the request during the commission meeting Wednesday.

"I'm not an attorney," Hagan said. "That's why I want the county attorney to look into it and come back with the do's and don'ts. It's been stated that you cannot have any discussion. I do not believe the use agreement states that."

Hagan says that during a meeting Monday, he informed St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster of his intentions to seek a legal opinion. Hagan would say only that the discussion was "cordial," as per an agreement between the two to keep the substance of their conversation between them.

St. Petersburg officials, however, stand by their interpretation of the agreement. They say it forbids Rays officials from even talking with an interested third party about moving out of Tropicana Field before the 2027 season.

But enforcing this prohibition would be tricky.

St. Petersburg City Attorney John Wolfe conceded that if Rays officials met behind closed doors with Hillsborough County officials, he'd have limited knowledge of what they discuss.

"I won't know unless someone tells me," Wolfe said.

If he were to find out either through public statements or documents that they crossed a line, Wolfe said he would then take action against each of the participants.

"I would take it to the (City Council) and ask to sue them, individually," Wolfe said.

But what is that line?

Hagan said from his reading, it's clear it would be problematic for other governments or private players to enter into negotiations with the team about relocating.

But he said he doesn't believe it prevents someone from talking to the team about ways to ensure the Rays remain in the region.

The Rays play at Tropicana Field near downtown St. Petersburg under an agreement that binds the team to the stadium until 2027. Team owners have said the Trop is not suitable for a Major League Baseball franchise and that they don't want to remain there through the remainder of the agreement. They want permission to look elsewhere, including Hillsborough County.

A private business group looked at the team's arrangement and concluded it needed a new stadium, ranking locations in Hillsborough among those that make better sense. Such an arena would be more centrally located to the region's population clusters and would likely enjoy more corporate support, the report from the ABC Coalition said.

That was more than two years ago, with little action since.

Hagan has said that the team gains more leverage with each passing year. The fewer years on the agreement, the less penalty the team likely would face to leave early.

"We've got to break this logjam one way or the other," Hagan said. "I don't believe that status quo is an option."

Foster has consistently said he expects the Rays to uphold their obligation under the lease. He did not return a call for comment.

Times staff writer Michael Van Sickler contributed to this report. Bill Varian can be reached at (813) 226-3387 or

Hillsborough commission chairman wants legal opinion about talking with Tampa Bay Rays 04/16/12 [Last modified: Monday, April 16, 2012 10:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays make Hechavarria trade official


    Here is the release from the team ...


  2. Jones: Will Tampa Bay hit a Hall of Fame dry spell now?

    Lightning Strikes

    Marty St. Louis may lack the Hall of Fame stats, but two scoring titles, an MVP award and clutch goals should count for a lot. (Dirk Shadd, Times)
  3. SeaWorld shares drop Monday to 2017 low after disclosure of federal subpoena


    The Orlando parent company of SeaWorld and Busch Gardens theme parks saw its stock drop 3.5 percent Monday to $15.10, its lowest price of this year.

    Killer whales perform at Shamu Stadium at SeaWorld in Orlando in 2011, before public pressure was placed on the theme park company to curtail its orca shows.SeaWorld has since announced an end to the traditional killer whale entertainment  at its theme parks. [AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack]
  4. Update: Scientology cancels planned mock FBI raid on downtown building

    Special Topics

    CLEARWATER — The Church of Scientology planned to film a mock FBI raid on a downtown building Monday afternoon, but the actors and cameras never showed up to the location disclosed to the city.

    According to Clearwater Police, the Church of Scientology plans to hold a mock FBI raid at 3 p.m. Monday at this vacant building at 305 N Fort Harrison Ave. Police announced the raid in advance to alert the public. They said they did not know the reason for the event. [Google Earch image]
  5. Support for gay marriage surges, even among groups once wary

    Human Interest

    NEW YORK — In the two years since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, support for it has surged even among groups that recently were broadly opposed, according to a new national survey.

    People gather in Washington's Lafayette Park to see the White House lit up in rainbow colors on June 26, 2015, the day the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage legal. In the two years since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, support for it has surged even among groups that recently were broadly opposed, according to a new national survey released on Monday, June 26, 2017. [Associated Press]