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From disappointment to glee, local leaders react to Rays news

Politicians on both sides of the bay weigh in on St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s decision to cease talks with the team.
Mayor Rick Kriseman on Wednesday said he will not allow the Tampa Bay Rays to explore splitting their season between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal prior to the 2027 expiration of the team's lease of Tropicana Field.
Mayor Rick Kriseman on Wednesday said he will not allow the Tampa Bay Rays to explore splitting their season between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal prior to the 2027 expiration of the team's lease of Tropicana Field. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published Dec. 6, 2019
Updated Dec. 6, 2019

The Tampa Bay Rays’ novel idea to split home games between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal is dead, at least for now. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman announced Wednesday he’s not interested in letting the team explore the idea before 2028.

Kriseman’s decision means the team will play out its lease at Tropicana Field, which runs through the 2027 season.

RELATED: Now there’s even more questions about the Rays future. We have some answers

After that, the fate of the team — and big league baseball in Tampa Bay — is as uncertain as ever.

The Tampa Bay Times reached out to local politicians for their reaction. Here are their thoughts.

St. Petersburg City Council member Charlie Gerdes

“I’m pleased that (Kriseman) made clear what his position is, that’s important. I’m very pleased that it’s straightforward and succinct. ... Conversations and discussions can be more productive when things are crystal clear.”

RELATED: Rick Kriseman kills Rays’ plan to split season in Montreal. Now what?

“I would still prefer that if other parts of the region are willing to explore the sharing relationship, that they have an opportunity to do so, but that’s a conversation I think that can still be had,” he said. "The way the clock is working, it’s getting close to the point you wouldn’t even be able to build a stadium before 2028. So it may seem like a long time away, but... it’s really not that much time.”

St. Petersburg City Council member Gina Driscoll

“I’ll be waiting to see how the Rays respond. While I agree with the mayor that the first choice would be to have the team here full time, I am somewhat disappointed we aren’t giving at least the opportunity to explore the idea of having a partial season in St. Pete.”

“If there’s anything about St. Pete, it’s that we know how to get creative, and I thought this gave us an opportunity to work with the Rays for a unique arrangement that could work for everyone. And we don’t know for sure if this idea would work or not. Unfortunately now it looks like we’ll never find out.”

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St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice

“If the Rays expected — and perhaps still want — a more public discussion to think through the Montreal split season proposal, I don’t see what’s wrong with at least having the conversation. We need to make progress and the status quo isn’t working. While it’s important to be resolute and convey strength, we also need to be collaborative and hear out the Rays. The worst case scenario is for 2027 to arrive and we find ourselves stuck with an outdated empty stadium, no baseball team, and acres of parking lot where redevelopment should be. The city loses its negotiating leverage as we approach 2027 and the clock is ticking.”

Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard

“They’re the ones who have the contract, the city. So we’ll just follow their lead.”

“At some point we have to sit down at the table and (the team has to) say ‘We’re either staying or leaving, and this is what we need from you, the community, to stay.’ And I haven’t heard that. So it’s hard to guess at that, what’s going to be the decision point there.”

“I’ve even heard they’ve made comments that the county has a bunch of money they’re ready to give us. But guess what, it’s not necessarily (the team’s). We need to be confident this means they’re going to stay, that it will increase our tourism. Better start talking to us, because who knows, somebody else could come looking for that money. And of course they have. But we’re not going to wait forever to get their ask.”

Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch

“I respect the mayor’s decision and his process, and my read of this is that it still leaves, as his memo said, post-2027 opportunities for both split and full season. I understand this is part of the process the mayor went through in this point of time, and it allows him to move forward with the Trop redevelopment, and I think that it is something that needs to happen. Ultimately post 2027 there’s still an opportunity for an innovative solution that keeps the Rays in St. Pete, and this is the next step in that process.”

Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice

“I would have liked to have seen the split season explored a little more. With the full caveat that the team is not looking for the same kind of community support than they would for a full time stadium," he said. “Even though we say the deal is dead, I think the door has always got a potential to be opened.”

Pinellas County Commissioner Kathleen Peters

“I don’t know all the details to the discussion. However, on the surface I support his decision.”

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor spokeswoman Ashley Bauman

“The Rays truly want to remain in the region and the community wants them to stay. If a split season is feasible and will keep them here (Castor is) open to those conversations.”

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan

“Unfortunately, I was not surprised by Mayor Kriseman’s announcement yesterday. However, this does not impact our efforts to ensure the Rays remain in Tampa Bay for generations to come. We are prepared and look forward to discussing post-2027 opportunities in Hillsborough with the team.”

Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White

“If governments weren’t in the business of funding billionaire sports team owners, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. If the Rays were truly functioning as a private business entity, they would be more than free to split their time between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal and not be restricted by the decision of a mayor.”

Tampa City Council member Joseph Citro

“I think it’s a great idea (rejecting the Rays’ request to explore the split season prior to 2028). I never did like the thought of a split season between the Rays and the city of St. Pete or any other city.”

“If for some reason the Rays do not stay in St. Petersburg, I would prefer them to at least come over the bridge to Tampa, as opposed to leaving the area altogether. Only for full time.”