We saw it right in front of us- an end to this Rays stadium saga and the frustration experienced by everyone involved. On Thursday, the St. Petersburg council voted on an amendment to the Tropicana Field lease that would have allowed the Rays to look at stadium sites in both Pinellas and Hillsborough for a fee of 1.42 million dollars a year. The Rays have always said that they would refuse to look at any individual site in the Tampa Bay area unless they were given the opportunity to survey every possible site, and if this amendment has passed, that’s exactly what could have happend. Just because the Rays would be looking at every site in the area, including quite a few in Hillsborough County, that wouldn’t mean than they would necessarily move to downtown Tampa- Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said previously that if allowed to look at stadium options in both counties, his first call would by to Darryl LeClair, the developer behind the promising Carillon proposal. If the amendment passed, there would be more controversy ahead if the Rays decided to leave St. Petersburg, but it would certainly get the ball rolling on the stadium discussions than ever before, and if the Rays decided to choose the Carillon proposal or another proposal in Pinellas County, the stadium sage could have finally been over. But instead, the proposal was voted down, with the 8-person St. Pete council voting an even 4-4, and suddenly talks are set to stall again. Noah Pransky of WTSP had play-by-play of the talk prior to the vote in the St. Pete council chamber via the @StadiumShadow twitter account and had some very interesting quotes from the people on the council.
"#StPete councilmember Curran: If anything weakened our (legal) position, it was releasing the Carillon plan.— Shadow of Stadium (@StadiumShadow) February 7, 2013Councilman Kennedy: #StPete offered a plan at Carillon, even though it didn’t have to, and #Rays still wanted nothing to do with it.— Shadow of Stadium (@StadiumShadow) February 7, 2013"
Why did the Rays want “nothing to do” with the Carillon plan? The same thing they’ve said again and again, that they’re not going to look at any individual site in the Tampa Bay area until they’re allowed to look at the entire region. Like Gerdes said, the St. Pete council has to be more confident that the stadium sites in their county, particularly Carillon, will compare favorably to anything to Hillsbourgh. The Carillon proposal was a great idea- it generated interest in the stadium discussions and the Rays were ready to seriously look at it if they received the concessions they wanted. Instead, the St. Pete council not only rebuffed the Rays but hung Darryl LeClair and the developers behind Carillon out to dry as they refused to show confidence in Carillon as the place the Rays could build their new stadium. After Bill Foster said after he denied the Rays’ request to look at Hillsborough sites a few months ago, he said that the Rays were still open to look at Carillon and people have been befuddled that the Rays never took him up on that offer. But why were the Rays ever going to build a new stadium when it wasn’t on their terms and when they didn’t know how it compared to other stadium sites in the area? All the St. Pete council did with the Carillon proposal was show everyone a light at the end of the tunnel and then quickly close it up before anything could happen.
Wait a second, Mr. Foster- you’d rather have the Rays play in Tropicana Field for the next 16 years and then bolt the area than find a solution for this problem now and solidify the Rays’ presence in the area for years to come? That first statement sounds everything like he expects the Rays to leave the Tampa Bay area after they leave the Trop. Nobody wants that to happen, and the only way that it will happen is if stubborn politicians like Foster refuse to see the whole picture of the situation and refuse to compromise.
The methodology behind the proposed amendment was quite sound- but how in the world was it ever going to pass? Gerdes, the councilman who proposed it, had opposition in the St. Pete council, but that wasn’t his only problem- the proposed amount the Rays would pay was embarrassingly low. Gerdes got that number from the amount St. Pete pays to subsidize the Trop every year- but in the scheme of things, that number is pocket change. Kyle Farnsworth‘s base salary in $1.35MM in 2012- for only 7000 more dollars, the Rays would be allowed to end the stadium stalemate. What? Gerdes said that the money could be used to improve the city- but how much can the city do with only $1.42M? If Gerdes was really going to make this amendment happen, he was going to have to ask the Rays for significantly more money, maybe even 10 million dollars a year. The Rays would have loved if this proposal passed, but it would have been an absolute gift for them if it did and to really come up for a reasonable deal for both sides, it’s going to have to involve considerably more money and make a statement that the Rays will have to understand that they can’t even think of getting out of an ironclad contract at the Trop without a major financial commitment.
One piece of good news was that Pransky tweeted that Foster is scheduled to meet with Stuart Sternberg a week from today. But considering the positions that Foster has steadfastly clung to, the chances are that the meeting between him and Foster will amount to nothing and the stadium stalemate will continue.