Mayor Rick Kriseman promised voters during his 2013 campaign that St. Petersburg residents wouldn't be cheated no matter where the Tampa Bay Rays baseball club end up.
The Rays spent years seeking the right to look outside St. Petersburg city limits, which, at the time, was not allowed under the city's lease with the team. That changed in January 2016, when the city gave permission to the Rays to look for a new stadium home in Tampa Bay.
The agreement did not include a fee simply for looking — another campaign promise we're tracking — but, it included other fees that will kick in if the Rays decide to leave St. Petersburg. With this agreement intact, Kriseman argues he made good on his promise to protect taxpayers in Rays negotiations.
"I want to thank our city council for approving this important memorandum of understanding with the Tampa Bay Rays," Kriseman told the Tampa Bay Times in January 2016. "This agreement is good news for baseball fans, for our taxpayers, for the city of St. Petersburg, and for our entire region. I still believe the team's current site, reimagined and redeveloped, is the best place for a new stadium."
Kriseman's "memorandum of understanding" gives the team until Dec. 31, 2019, to decide on a new location for a stadium.
The Rays would then have to pay the city a fee depending on how long was left in the team's lease when they leave town, 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. (Given the Rays have yet to settle on a possible location, let alone figure out a way to pay to build a new stadium, the earliest the team could move is likely ahead of the 2021 season.)
The agreement also places all of the proceeds from development on the Tropicana Field site into an escrow account. The Rays and the city have agreed to split revenue derived from the development of the Trop site 50-50 if the team remains through the end of its lease in 2027, or chooses to build a new stadium there.
If the Rays leave, they have to forfeit their share. This is especially significant, since Tropicana Field's 85 acres is considered prime downtown real estate.
"Based on the draft of the master plan that was created with a stadium, you're talking about almost 900 million square feet of development and the right to 50 percent of that development," Kriseman said. "That's a lot of money, potentially, and so I think we have protected the taxpayers' interest."
It's important to note that the local governments have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the construction and maintenance of Tropicana Field. In 2008, the Tampa Bay Times estimated taxpayers would have invested $323 million into the site by the end of last year. The city won't recoup that much.
But Kriseman's plan to let the Rays search for a new stadium site outside of the city does contain guarantees that would protect St. Petersburg taxpayers should the Rays move before the Trop lease is set to expire.
We rate this Promise Kept.