As the future of the Rays in St. Pete remains in question, City Council voted Thursday to meet with CityScape, who is the company proposing to build a new baseball stadium in the Gateway area of St. Petersburg.
The council voted 7-1 in favor of a resolution that said the city would not sue Darryl LeClair and CityScape for presenting its plan to council for a new Rays stadium.
The location for the proposed stadium would in be Carillon business park, which is just west of the Howard Franklin Bridge.
“What this does, we believe, is protect the integrity of our use agreement,” City Attorney John Wolfe of the city's agreement with the Rays. “It allows you to hear a proposal form the developer, but not allow them to talk to the Rays directly.”
Wolfe said the Rays could be invited to the table for the stadium proposal if they were to contractually agree not to look at sites for a new stadium outside of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County.
Waiving the exclusivity provision in the contract with the Rays to allow the team to speak directly with developers like CityScape, Wolfe said, could mean the Rays could leave the region.
“By doing that,” Wolfe said of the possibility of letting the Rays speak with CityScape directly, “You open the door for them to claim that we have waived that provision and they can talk to anybody.
“The Rays and the Times want us to allow them to talk to Tampa,” Wolfe continued. “All that does, if that provision is set aside or waived, both the Times and Tampa are really helping to allow the Rays to talk to anybody in the country.”
Opening up the “region” for proposals is dangerous, Wolfe said, because what “region” means to the Rays could be entirely different than what Tampa Bay thinks of itself.
“They are talking about regionalism and we don’t know how far regionalism goes,” Wolfe said.
On Friday, however, Wofle clarified his comments to the Tampa Bay Times saying he believes the Rays do want to stay in Tampa Bay.
"I truly believe that they want to try make it work here in the area,'' city attorney John Wolfe said Friday.
… “My choice of words was probably not the best.''
During CityScape’s presentation to council, Wolfe said the Council should not ask questions and just listen.
“You guys need to be quiet,” Wolfe jokingly said Thursday.
“If they want to have a press conference afterwards they can have one,” Wolfe added. “If you want to call them you can call them. What I don’t want is us to have on the record conversations that we later have to defend as possible waivers of the exclusivity provision.”
Council member Wengay Newton said keeping the Rays in St. Pete should continue to be a priority for the city.
“We have got to welcome all opportunities to keep the Rays in St. Pete,” Newton said.
Mayor Bill Foster said the city would “love to have these discussion with our Major League Partners, but we haven’t been able to accomplish that,” he said.
“Any viable developer that comes to my door and says ‘I own Derby Lane’, ‘I own some land around Tropicana,’ anyone that has a St. Petersburg solution, I’d love to hear from (them).”
Foster said after the St. Pete meets with CityScape to hear the proposal it will present that plan to the Rays. At that time, Foster said, “we will learn very quickly whether or not our partners are interested in a St. Pete solution.”