ST. PETERSBURG — Michael Kalt, the executive who has led the Tampa Bay Rays' search for a new stadium, is leaving for a new job in his native New York City, the team announced Friday.
Kalt, 39, joined the Rays in 2006 as executive vice president of development and business affairs. Previously, he advised former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration on stadium issues.
Neither the team nor Kalt gave any indication that the move relates to the stadium stalemate between the Rays and the city of St. Petersburg. Rather, lesser-known general partners in the Rays organization have opened an investment office in Manhattan and want Kalt to run it.
A 14-month-old boy also played a part.
Kalt and his wife had their first child in November 2012. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins live in the New York area. Kalt said he and his wife have been thinking about moving home for several months.
"This is a really good opportunity in New York, where we want to raise our son because of family,'' he said. "This is also a good time to make a move and be the least disruptive to the club.''
The Rays and the city negotiated for months last year about allowing the team to explore stadium possibilities in Tampa. Those talks broke down but are expected to renew under new Mayor Rick Kriseman.
"One of my concerns was not to create a situation of things going backward because of my decision to leave,'' Kalt said. "With a new administration coming in, it allows everyone to start fresh.''
Rays President Matt Silverman said other executives involved in stadium issues will now take on expanded roles. "It's a process that requires cooperative planning and execution by a number of interested parties,'' he said.
Besides working to resolve the current stalemate, Kalt played lead roles in moving spring training to Port Charlotte and planning for a waterfront stadium that proved unpopular.
"Michael's contributions and leadership over the past eight years have been invaluable to the growth of the Rays organization,'' principal owner Stuart Sternberg said in a release. "His presence and guidance will be sorely missed.''
Kriseman spokesman Ben Kirbry declined comment on Rays' personnel, but both City Council member Karl Nurse and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn praised Kalt as a straight-shooter.
"He was always trying to find common ground, searching for something that could be a win-win,'' Nurse said.
Buckhorn said Kalt's leaving may cause a "momentary loss of institutional memory, of somebody who knows how to put things together, but I don't think it will deter'' progress toward a new stadium somewhere.
In an interview with WDAE 620-AM Friday, Buckhorn also expressed hope that Kriseman's election would hasten a stadium search.
"Clearly it doesn't work in St. Petersburg,'' he said. "That is a failed business model.''
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Kriseman must protect St. Petersburg's financial interests, Buckhorn said, but "he's a smart guy. He's solid. He's practical … He's going to do what's in the best interests of the region.''