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City Looking for 'St. Pete Solution' for New Rays Stadium

City Council voted 7-1 to hear a proposal from CityScape about a new baseball stadium in St. Petersburg.

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.” 

Jodi August 18, 2012 at 03:16 PM
I am not a big baseball fan but I do support my hometown teams in ways I can afford; wearing Rays t-shirts on "Team Day" at work and watching them on television. It strikes me as odd, however, that the only time the stadium fills up is when the Rays play other "big name" teams... Yankees, Red Sox, etc. Even then, it is rarely sold out. If you cannot fill the seats now, no matter who the visiting team is, what is the point of spending more money?
Jack Sprat August 18, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Hooray for the Rays! Let's all support them in their efforts to get the new stadium they desperately want - as long as they pay for it with their money: land, infrastructure, construction, maintenance, taxes, everything that every businees owner should be expected to pay for. Let's not fall for the "we need the Rays so we need to pay for their stadium" line again. There is no justification for forcing taxpayers to foot the bill so they can continue to be one of the most profitable teams in MLB. They are 5th out of 30 with $26 Million operating income in 2011 - all because they have zero stadium costs (in fact, we taxpayers actually pay them to manage our stadium!).
Joshua Streeter August 18, 2012 at 04:58 PM
I have heard that we pay.to.keep them here, but do not know where that comes from. Can you cite a source? I also see in the Times they still owe $40 million for the remainder of their lease. How can it be both?
Jack Sprat August 18, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Start here: http://www.tampabay.com/news/localgovernment/article414158.ece Construction (started at $90 Million): "When the city and county portion of the stadium is fully paid off in July 2016, local taxpayers will have spent $148.5-million before interest. With interest, the bill jumps to $293.3-million. The city's contribution for the stadium, which will total more than $205-million, largely comes from its share of sales tax revenues. None is coming from property tax payments. The county already has paid $75.5-million toward the stadium financing, and the contribution is expected to reach $117.9-million when the county's commitment expires in 2015." Operating: "After running more than $1.6-million annual deficits since the stadium opened in 1990, city officials believed baseball would end the need for city subsidies. Under an agreement with the city, the Rays would absorb the costs for running the dome. Further, the city would collect a portion — starting at 50 cents a ticket — of the attendance revenues. In the team's first year, the arrangement worked. The Rays sold more than 2.5-million tickets and, after other expenses, the city made $152,769. But as attendance sagged, so did the city's main revenue stream. Overall, the city has lost $26.7-million operating Tropicana Field. Last year it was more than $2-million.
Scott Bitterli August 18, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Here! Here! My sentiments exactly!
Jack Sprat August 19, 2012 at 04:26 PM
City officials were caught off guard by the cost of property insurance. Premiums rose 1,700 percent between 1998 and 2007, from $127,544 to $2.3-million. The city also is spending $400,000 a year on stadium traffic management,.... Also, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that cities were required to pay property taxes on publicly owned sports facilities. St. Petersburg spent close to $4-million on property tax payments before transferring ownership of the facility to Pinellas County, which is not under the same requirement. Put another way, the city and county will have invested $323-million in baseball at Tropicana Field by 2016. (Not including $60-million from the state in the form of a sales tax subsidy.)" That was back in 2009. Today, the total cost to taxpayers is very close to $400 MIILLON. All of these costs can be verified through researching city records and the original contract with the Rays.
CJ August 23, 2012 at 03:49 PM
It seems many people are missing the point of how slick this new idea is. The only reason to not support it is the very real sentimental reason of seeing The Rays leave The Trop...and that is a fact that is not plesant to think about...but these reasons are not enough and they don't solve the attendance problem. The Trop is a very cool place, but unfortunately...it does not look as if the attendance figures will ever get better there. It's not going to happen. They could win the World Series, and it will still stay the same. Why? Because it seems as if once Tampa people comes across the bridges...the extra distance to The Trop is the fine line that makes many say ''it's too far of a drive from Tampa''. True that. By putting it where it is ''right there'' as soon as you cross over from Tampa..then the idea is that this will make enough people from Tampa come over to fill up the stadium. It's a hard arguemnt to dispute. ''But''... them ''going to Tampa'', and totally leaving St Pete is the main thing this new stadium idea is trying to prevent. One thing is for sure, with the attendance figures ...it is clear they will go ''somewhere'' besides The Trop as soon as the contract to play there is up...or it is bought out...and that move could even mean to an entirely new area of the US. This new proposal is a very real way to keep them in St Pete, and also draw more badly needed fans from Tampa. What will become of The Trop if the new stadium is built?
Jack Sprat August 23, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Yes, it is a very slick idea. As long as the Rays or CityScape or any other PRIVATE money pays for ithe stadium and infrastructure and property taxes just like any other small business. The whole country is facing the same economic issues we have here in FL and Pinellas County - they aren't going anywhere as long as they have a free stadium and are making huge profits. There aren't any free stadiums available these days - taxpayers everywhere have had enough of this sort of thing. If they leave, The Trop can become a wonderful new shopping and residential area - just like they proposed when they were trying to get us taxpayers to build them a waterfront stadium for $500 Million + infrastructure costs. And if you like that idea, I hear that Gandy Bridge is for sale.........
CJ August 23, 2012 at 04:16 PM
I moved here from KC. There is a similar problem for The Royals there. KC is a city that is half in Kansas, and half in Missouri. Kinda like the Tamp/St Pete situation. Think of the bay as the state line. During the All Star game where the baseball commisioner bad mouthed The Rays attendance woes...being from KC, I laughed...because The Royals have terrible attendance also (mainly because they suck now...lol). KC's stadium is on the Missouri, but on any game day the parking lot has mainly Kansas cars in it. The Kansas side of KC has way more people with more money. Many Kansans from the KC area want to build a stadium on the Kansas side by the NASCAR track that's there and take The Royals from the Missouri side of the city. They don't like driving over to the Missouri side, just like many Tampa people don't like the extra long drive from Tampa. It is very much like what is going on here. Atttendance is so bad there, the owner of the Royals keeps saying he might like to go to an entirely new area of the US...just like the owner of The Rays is unhappy in St Pete due to the low attendance. Having seen this play out, I would suggest St Pete quickly get this new stadium built...make it State of the Art and nationally famous...and then buy out The Trop contract and ''get this done''. Do it for The Rays. What a great baseball team! Let's get this done and then dominate The Yankees and own this division. The heck with the Yankees...Go Rays!
Jack Sprat August 23, 2012 at 05:28 PM
Are you willing to pay for it? I suggest that those who want a new stadium for the Rays sign up to pay their share of the costs and leave the rest of us taxpayers out of it. The city is already broke and taxpayers have enough to worry about other than where the Rays go. We taxpayers bought and paid for one $400 Million stadium already (see above) and that's enough for most of us. And the next one won't be $400M - be thinking twice that amount when you add infrastructure, interest, maintenance, insurance, etc. The Rays want a new stadium and you want them to have one? That's great - you should invest in the New Rays Stadium Fund and enjoy the return on YOUR investment. Publicly fiunded sports stadiums are a scheme of the past. Taxpayers fell for the great Marlins deal, see what they got for their money: http://www.fieldofschemes.com/2012/07/27/3585/marlins-new-stadium-worst-honeymoon-ever/ Rays articles: http://www.fieldofschemes.com/?s=rays
CJ August 23, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Don't be so sure ''they won't be going anywhere''. A person with deep ockets from another city..or another city itself could possibly buy out the contract with The Trop in order to lure The Ray away from not only St Pete, but Tampa as well. It's been done before. Once they are gone..they are gone. Personally....I definitely like having MLB baseball here. I guess you have to be a baseball fan to be ''all in '' on keeping them. I happen to be willing to support having them,even by paying more taxes. It's your choice not too, of course. I was mainly just trying to offer some useful input, not be a big blow hard and hot head about it. It's ''sports''..you are either a big supporter of such things or you are not. I simply was pointing out to other commenters here my view on it...mainly to the first commentor...''Jodi''.
CJ August 23, 2012 at 06:20 PM
I am probably not near as informed on many of the details about this new stadiam as you. I am rather new here, but part of the reson I am here is because of all the sports teams, etc here. This is a world class metro area, so things like this are just what goes along with living in a place like that. I thought I had heard or read that there was more or less a private investor that was wanting to do this? It's not like it is a City proposal like The Pier/The Lens circus...or is it. i don't really know..maybe you can shed some lioght on that constructively. You make it pretty hard to even want to listen to what you have to say. But..''yes''...I'd be willing to pay...and so would lots of other people. Which $400 million stadium are you referring to? Like I said, I am new here. I thought The Trop was old. It's not? I thought it was...sorry. I am not here to visit a bunch of links, which is generally unsafe computer practive anyway. Spell it out. All I know is that I really like The Rays and The Trop. I drive by it 4 times a day every single day...so I am not excited about them moving further north up by the Howard Franklin Bridge. Right now, The Trop is close enough for me to ride my bike to it...but probably not up there. Regardless, I care more about not losing The Rays Come on Rays...let's catch the Yanks and win the divion ourright instead of getting just a WildCard!!

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