Require Rays to pay a fee to look elsewhere

"If the Rays simply do not want to be here any longer — then they should be given the opportunity to pay an exploratory fee in order to look at other locations, provided those locations are in the Tampa Bay area."


Rejected deal didn't have an exploratory fee

Mayor Rick Kriseman's answer to the increasingly tenuous relationship between St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Rays baseball club was succinct in 2013: If they want to move, let them look -- but they've got to pay us first.

The then-candidate insisted on his campaign website that if the team wanted to leave its home at Tropicana Field, they could, as long as they gave the city an unspecified amount of money to do so (and as long as they kept the search in the region).

Kriseman lived up to part of that, presenting the City Council with a plan on Dec. 8, 2014, to allow the Rays to explore new stadium sites in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, outside of the city limits. The City Council, though, is balking -- at least for now.

Kriseman's plan came amid talk from team ownership that it would likely sell if there was no new stadium deal.

"I'm not leaving. I'm not moving this team. I'm not taking this team out of the area. But that's me,'' Sternberg said at Major League Baseball's winter meetings in San Diego. "The chances of me owning this team in 2023 if we don't have a new stadium are probably nil. Somebody else will take it and move it. It's not a threat, just the reality.''

Under the agreement, which Kriseman called a "memorandum of understanding," the team had until Dec. 31, 2017, to decide on a new site. If the team left the city, the Rays would then pay a fee depending on how long was left in the team's lease, starting at $4 million a season until December 2018, dropping to $3 million a season from 2019 to 2022 and $2 million from 2023 through 2026. The team's current lease expires in 2027.

The team also would have to provide in-kind compensation of up to $1 million, possibly in the form of season tickets for marketing the city and signs in the new stadium touting St. Petersburg.

What the agreement was missing, however, was an exploratory fee simply to look for a new location, which is what Kriseman promised during the 2013 campaign.

The point is moot at the moment, because the council voted against the proposal. In the last meeting on the subject on Dec. 18, council member Karl Nurse asked about leasing and developing property on the eastern part of Tropicana Field's 85 acres.

The team currently has a contract requiring both the Rays and the city to agree to new development and to split profits from land sales or leases. Nurse had asked Kriseman prior to the Dec. 18 meeting to change the agreement so the city would retain all profits in the time between when the Rays started their search and when they moved into a new stadium, an alteration the Rays refused.

"We have a use agreement," Team president Brian Auld said at the meeting. "And for as long as we're in the Trop, we expect to abide by the terms of that use agreement and we expect the city to abide by that as well.'' Kriseman noted it could potentially be negotiated in a termination agreement if the Rays moved.

Even though Nurse voted for the deal, the council was not pleased by what Chairman Bill Dudley called Auld's "arrogance." The council voted down the measure, 5-3.

With the deal dead, none of the parties involved -- the mayor, the council or the team -- are all that willing to talk again immediately.

So Kriseman's deal didn't include an exploratory fee, even if it made the team pay the city if it moved. But the city council didn't approve the agreement anyway. We expect there are a few more innings to go between the Rays and the city when it comes to a new stadium. Overall, we rate this promise Stalled.


Tampa Bay Times, "Rays and Kriseman reach agreement to allow Hillsborough stadium search," Dec. 8, 2014

Tampa Bay Times, "Kriseman-Rays stadium deal is in the works, but meets complications," Dec. 9, 2014

Tampa Bay Times, "Sternberg calls deal fair, says with no new stadium team likely to be sold, moved," Dec. 9, 2014

Tampa Bay Times, "Vote on Rays stadium deal is delayed a week," Dec. 10, 2014

Tampa Bay Times, "No rubber stamp from City Council for St. Petersburg's deal with Rays," Dec. 17, 2014

Tampa Bay Times, "St. Petersburg City Council rejects Rays stadium search deal," Dec. 18, 2014

Tampa Bay Times, "Rays' president strikes cooperative tone on stadium deal with St. Petersburg," Dec. 19, 2014