According to the Tampa Tribune, St. Pete Councilman Charlie Gerdes is suggesting a $1.4M fee, paid from the Rays to St. Pete, in exchange for the right to explore sites in Hillsborough County:
Councilman Charlie Gerdes proposes amending the contract with the Rays to allow the team to negotiate with developers and other local governments in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties to find a new stadium after paying the city an "exploration" fee.Neither Foster nor the Rays had immediate comment on the proposal, but it's an interesting one that would seemingly accomplish what the team is trying to do: open the door to Hillsborough County and reduce St. Pete's leverage both legally and in the court of public opinion.
The city council is scheduled to discuss the proposal at its Thursday meeting.
But the proposal would not release the Rays from their commitment to play at Tropicana Field through 2027 nor let them negotiate to play at another site sooner. If the Rays found another site, they would still have to then negotiate with the city to break their lease.
The city's charter does not allow Mayor Bill Foster, who has threatened to sue any agency that tries to lure the Rays away, to veto contract amendments.
Foster, a lawyer by trade who is concerned about legal leverage, is likely to oppose the move, but the Tampa Bay Times is likely to herald it. The result is a "are you with him or with us?" conundrum for council members. Expect an editorial applauding the move in the next few days.
And the Rays should like the idea too: $1.4 million is a small price to pay for the Rays to finally turn the tides of the $500+ million Stadium Saga in their favor.
UPDATE: Read what Gerdes said about the stadium fight while on the campaign trail.