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Kriseman takes second swing for deal to allow Rays stadium search

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s stadium plan likely won’t be ready for a City Council vote on March 5.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s stadium plan likely won’t be ready for a City Council vote on March 5.
Published Feb. 25, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman is lobbying the City Council on a revised agreement with the Tampa Bay Rays with the hope of securing enough votes to allow the team to look at possible stadium sites in both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

But the mayor won't bring the new deal to a council meeting unless he thinks he has a chance at success, mayoral spokesman Ben Kirby said Tuesday.

Kriseman and the Rays have agreed on how development rights — which are shared between the city and the team in the contract for Tropicana Field — would play out if the Rays leave the Trop before the contract's expiration in 2027, Kirby said.

"He'll be calling all the council members in the next several days. The hope is council members will have a comfort level to vote yes," Kirby said.

In December, the council voted 5-3 to scuttle a prior agreement between Kriseman and the team to allow a two-county search after council member Karl Nurse questioned if the Rays could profit off development rights as they leave town.

On Saturday, Rays owner Stu Sternberg told the Tampa Bay Times that he had no interest in making money off development.

Council member Darden Rice said Kriseman has described the new deal to her.

"Predictably, it clarifies the intention is not to do that (allow the Rays to profit), but that the city couldn't just go ahead with a new project and impede baseball traffic or crimp parking," Rice said.

But it's not apparent that development rights are still the main obstacle.

"If that were the reason, I'm optimistic," council Chairman Charlie Gerdes said. "But then Coach (Bill Dudley) said he wanted a shorter search. That's a new wrinkle to me."

Last week, Dudley told the Times that the team should have 18 months — not three years— to find a new site.

Sternberg also said no Rays officials would be present at the next vote.

Kirby declined to comment when asked if that made Kriseman's task tougher, but Rice said she understood Sternberg's logic.

"I understand he's got to limit the variables. With City Council, you have eight variables right off the bat," Rice said.

Rays officials are still willing to talk, said team spokeswoman Rafaela Amador.

"We remain available to meet with council members if they have any questions," she said.

Three of the five members who voted against the first deal — Dudley, Amy Foster and Steve Kornell — didn't return calls for comment. Wengay Newton said he hadn't been contacted by the mayor. And Jim Kennedy was opaque when asked what it would take to secure his vote to allow the Rays to conduct a two-county search.

"It's a good question, but one that I'm not going to answer yet," Kennedy said.

Kirby said the mayor doesn't anticipate a vote at the next council meeting, which is March 5.

"I think the conversations will take longer than that," he said.

Contact Charlie Frago at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow @CharlieFrago.

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