Thursday, October 11, 2012

Rays Respond to St. Pete; Ask for Permission to Amend Contract

The Tampa Bay Rays have responded to St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster's request to discuss a proposed Gateway/Carillon baseball stadium with a counteroffer to amend their (seemingly ironclad) contract.

In a letter, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg asks Foster for a number of concessions in the use agreement, including lifting the contract's prohibition on negotiations with other municipalities.  In return, Sternberg offers contract language that would prohibit a new agreement elsewhere "until the Rays and the City of St. Petersburg have reached a mutually-acceptable resolution regarding how best to wind down our lease of Tropicana Field."

"This amendment will allow for a throrough evaluation of sites, in only Pinellas County and Hillsborough County," Sternberg continued in his letter.  "It is a responsible process to undertake before any decisions about a new ballpark in the region can be made, collectively, by the Rays, the public, community leaders, and our elected representatives."

Simultaneously, the Rays sent a letter to Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan saying, "we stand ready to meet at your convenience."

Sternberg's letter to Hagan implores "joint, collaborative meetings between the Rays and all the Tampa Bay area local governments who wish to ensure the long-term success of Major League Baseball in the bay area."

Just when Foster started to crank up the pressure on the Rays, Sternberg returns volley with a simple, logical argument Foster will have trouble refusing.
While allowing the Rays to open up conversations with Hillsborough County could diminish St. Pete's leverage down the road (studies will inevitably conclude Tampa is a better market for a team than St. Pete), Sternberg's promise to "preserve the City of St. Petersburg's rights" is a convincing one.

The next move is Foster's, and Jason Collette with already speculates the mayor will insist upon financial considerations to amend the deal

A payout was actually suggested by the Tampa Bay Times editorial board too, but not offered by Sternberg.  So even if Foster is open to the amendment, it could require lengthy negotiations for the two sides to see eye-to-eye.

Foster told WTSP-TV on Thursday afternoon that he'll have to discuss the amendment with his staff and had no immediate answer.

(H/T to SaintPetersblog for breaking the news) 

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