For a while, it appeared as though progress was finally being made in the Rays quest for a new stadium. After years of having their efforts seemingly stonewalled by St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster, and his refusal to negotiate with the Rays, Foster had appeared to relent. He mentioned that he may be willing to accept that the Rays would need to leave Tropicana Field, and potentially move to Tampa.
Now, it seems that Foster may have changed his mind. In a message to the St. Petersburg City Council, he stated his reservations about Major League Baseball being willing to assist either the city or the Rays in reaching a compromise. At this point, it is believed that the biggest issue may be the financial compensation given to the city for the Rays to break their lease.
“It has become apparent to me that Major League Baseball has no intention of assisting the city and Rays in reaching a mutually beneficial solution,” Foster wrote in a memo to the council. “Nor does Major League Baseball seem interested in a cooperative effort to keep the Rays in the Tampa Bay Region for the long term.”
It is certainly understandable that Foster is looking to protect the investment that St. Petersburg put forth in the construction of Tropicana Field. It is also understandable that Foster is looking to get the best deal possible for his city in order to allow the Rays to explore other options in the area. However, by accusing Bud Selig and Major League Baseball of standing the the way of an equitable solution that benefits all parties involves, it may be possible that Foster is causing more harm than good in this dispute.
Should the Rays move to the Tampa area, it could actually benefit St. Petersburg. By having the Rays in an area that could have hotels and restaurants built around a new stadium, the entire region could benefit from a potential influx of jobs and people travelling to the area. A team with stars such as Evan Longoria and David Price, as well as burgeoning starts like Wil Myers and Matt Moore, deserves to have the support of the region. Yet, should Foster stand in the way and Selig get involved in the discussion, it may not end well for the Rays in St. Petersburg.
The Tampa region deserves a chance to prove that they can support the Rays. Unfortunately, Bill Foster may not let that happen.