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Q&A: What happens if the Tampa Bay Rays leave Tropicana Field?

 
Published Dec. 10, 2014

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and the Tampa Bay Rays have reached a "memorandum of understanding" to let the team explore stadium sites in Tampa. The agreement will go to the City Council Thursday.

What would St. Petersburg get out of this deal?

The Tropicana Field contract expires in 2027. The team would pay $4 million for any lost season, or part of any season, before December 2018. That payment would drop to $3 million for any seasons lost between 2019 and 2022, and $2 million between 2022 and 2026. The city would also get in-kind compensation, such as season tickets and signs in the stadium, equivalent to a one-time payment of $1 million.

There was once talk about charging the team for the right to look elsewhere. What happened to that?

No exploration fee is included in the plan.

If the Rays leave, the city would pay to demolish the Trop. What would that cost?

The city estimates $4.8 million. Adding infrastructure to make the site ready for development would cost millions more.

Would there be ongoing costs to secure an empty Trop?

Perhaps some security and insurance liability costs. The current operating subsidy for the team is $1.3 million a year.

What happens at the City Council meeting Thursday?

There will be a Yes or No vote on the memorandum of understanding, or they could delay the vote. The council does not have the power to negotiate with the Rays. If they turn down the deal, the long-standing stalemate between the city and the team over new stadium sites would resume.

Can the council later change the terms of the agreement?

No.

If the council approves the plan, what happens next?

The Rays will have three years to analyze possible sites in either Pinellas or Hillsborough County. If they find a location, they cannot sign any contracts until they return to St. Petersburg and negotiate a final "termination agreement" on the Trop contract. That would put the compensation provisions of the memorandum of understanding into effect.

Would the termination agreement also require council approval?

Yes. But it would be another Yes or No vote. The council would have no power to alter the terms. The memorandum also requires the council to approve the termination agreement unless the council thinks it is inconsistent with the provisions of the memorandum. If that happens, a circuit court judge in Manatee County would rule on whether the memorandum and termination agreement are consistent.

How much would a new stadium cost?

Estimates usually range from $500 million to $600 million, not including land. But that could vary depending on what kind of stadium gets built, and where.

Who would pay for it?

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The Rays and various tax sources. Hillsborough officials have pledged not to raise property or sales taxes for the project. Tourist taxes, state stadium funds, community redevelopment money and rental car taxes are likely candidates. A foreign investment program called EB-5 could lower bonding costs.