Kriseman: Council workshop on Rays stadium options is 'premature'

Mayor Rick Kriseman is still working on terms for a two-county search.
Mayor Rick Kriseman is still working on terms for a two-county search.
Published Feb. 14, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — Maybe the City Council won't talk about a new Tampa Bay Rays stadium on Thursday, after all.

Two months after the council thwarted Mayor Rick Kriseman's plans to let the Rays look for a new stadium site in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, Kriseman on Friday complicated the council's plans for a workshop next week to study options for a new stadium in St. Petersburg.

Kriseman, in a late-day memo, informed the council he would not authorize staff to devote any time to preparing for the Thursday workshop because he felt it is "premature" while he was still trying to negotiate a stadium-search plan that the council could accept. Staff would attend the meeting, however.

The Rays are under contract to play at the city-owned Tropicana Field through 2026 but have said there is no way the aging facility will be the team's home that long and have sought permission from the city to begin searching for a new home.

Neither City Council Chairman Charlie Gerdes nor a Rays spokesman could be reached for comment late Friday.

But Kevin King, Kriseman's chief of staff, confirmed that the mayor is concerned the workshop's dialogue could impede his ongoing negotiations with the team, saying the "situation . . . is fluid. Our legal is talking to their legal, our mayor is talking to their president and we are confident about getting something before Opening Day (April 6)."

Council member Jim Kennedy suggested the workshop amid the contentious Dec. 18 council meeting in which members eventually voted 5-3 to not approve a memorandum of understanding Kriseman had negotiated with the Rays to begin a two-county search for a new stadium. The council balked after team president Brian Auld showed an unwillingness to give up the team's right to split any development revenue on the current Tropicana site should it happen while the team still played there. That topic has since been part of the negotiations, the mayor has confirmed.

Kennedy had pitched the workshop as the city's way of showing it was serious about keeping the Rays. But Kriseman was not pleased, complaining on the day of the vote that the council wanted to "lead by workshop."

The workshop's potential grew more muddled in recent weeks as Kennedy drew up a list of questions he wanted the Rays to answer that Gerdes viewed as premature.