St. Petersburg, Tampa Bay Rays leaders meet, this time at barbecue restaurant

It’s unclear if the team asked the city for “formal” permission to explore its Montreal split-season concept.
Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg (left.) and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman
Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg (left.) and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman [ SCOTT KEELER, MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE ]
Published Aug. 28, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — City and Tampa Bay Rays officials met again on Wednesday, this time at Edge District restaurant Dr. BBQ.

Mayor Rick Kriseman, Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin and policy chief Kevin King met with Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg and team co-presidents Brian Auld and Matt Silverman in a private room on the restaurant’s second floor, a restaurant host confirmed. Details about the meeting from both the city and the team were about as scarce as a live hog at a pig roast.

It was the group’s third meeting, according to a review of Kriseman’s calendar, since the team announced in June that it wants to split its home games between new ballparks somewhere in the Tampa Bay area and Montreal.

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Currently, the Rays are bound to play all home games at Tropicana Field through the 2027 season, according to the Trop’s lease. The contract even prohibits the Rays from negotiating to play elsewhere. That is, unless the city suspends the agreement’s exclusivity clause, as it did in 2016 when it let the team explore stadium options in Tampa.

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That means if the Rays want to explore the split-season scenario for any year prior to 2028, the team will need city approval. Sternberg has said he’d like to start playing home games in Montreal by 2024.

After their first meeting, the city said it was still awaiting a “formal” request from the team to explore the Montreal option. Both sides stayed mum after their second meeting earlier this month. Again, neither side would say Wednesday if the team asked for “formal” permission this time. City officials have previously declined to answer what would constitute a “formal” ask.

Kriseman has said permission to explore the concept, if the city were to grant it, would come at a cost.

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Sternberg, Auld and Silverman, tracked down on their walk from the restaurant to the Trop, offered no details about the meeting. Sternberg did confirm no paperwork has changed hands.

Kriseman spokesman Ben Kirby also provided no details about the negotiations.

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The meeting had been scheduled for Kriseman’s office inside the old St. Petersburg police headquarters, according to Kriseman’s calendar. That building is serving as City Hall temporarily while the real one is renovated. Kirby said he didn’t know who asked for the location change. He confirmed they didn’t have lunch.