Buckhorn, who previously lauded St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster for protecting his city's interests, tells the Times' Richard Danielson he thinks Tampa Bay could lose the Rays if voters don't replace Foster with Kriseman:
Q — Do you think the mayor’s race is going to make any difference over there in how this matter is negotiated?It's a non-endorsement endorsement. Even though we don't know where the Rays could possibly go (not Nashville, Montreal, Orlando, or Portland) and Kriseman and Foster basically have the same approach to the Stadium Saga.
Buckhorn — Yeah. I do.
Q — How so?
Buckhorn — Well, there hasn’t been any progress so far, so it can’t get any worse. And if there is a new mayor, then perhaps with this polling data, with the recognition that we may lose the Rays to some other jurisdiction, I’m hopeful that there will be some movement.
Q — If the mayor’s office doesn’t change, then what do you think will happen?
Buckhorn — I think we could lose the Rays.
Q — And if the mayor’s office does change, you think the prospects are better?
Buckhorn — Just based on what I have witnessed so far it can’t be any worse.
Q — So who you do you want to see win over there?
Buckhorn — (Laughs.) I’m not getting involved. All I care about is having a good partner over there for the region.
Q — So if Foster wins, what do you do on this issue?
Buckhorn — I think we continue to encourage some resolution. I think we continue to do whatever we can to help him live up to what he said he was going to do which is to allow them to look elsewhere, and to encourage those negotiations to take place and to push and to prod and to do whatever we have to do to try to make that happen. The more time we waste, the more challenging it becomes, the more frustrated Major League Baseball gets. Ticket sales aren’t seemingly improving. We can’t continue to coexist like this because it’s going to fail.
Q — And if Kriseman wins what do you do on this?
Buckhorn — I will reach out to him to help him in any way I can. This is a regional issue. This is not a St. Pete-specific issue, and the success of our region depends on mayors willing to put aside parochial interests for the greater good. And I think Rick will approach this with an open mind. He recognizes, because he’s been on the campaign trail for eight months now, that folks want to find a conclusion. The patient’s sick, and we’ve got to fix it.
Q — In past interviews we’ve done, I’ve heard you say you also recognize the spot that Foster’s in. He’s got to be made whole (if the Rays leave the Trop before the end of their lease).
Buckhorn — Yeah, but until they start those discussions, we don’t know. You can’t even get to the made whole part of the equation until they figure out whether coming over here would make sense. Until they’re allowed to do that, you can’t even really have any further discussions. I think that the redevelopment potential of that site is tremendous. And I think the sooner they move on it the better because of the way the market is.
Q — The Trop?
Buckhorn — The Trop site. I think you could create an entire live work and play on that site. You look at Jabil. Jabil’s looking for a new headquarters. You look at the demand for residential living. You look at the fact that St. Pete’s downtown is doing well. I think you could take that site and produce significantly more income for the city of St. Pete than what they currently reap as a result of the stadium being there.