Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Romano: Rays Stadium Search Deal May Be Close

In this morning's Times, sports-turned-metro columnist John Romano greets the six-year anniversary of the start of the Stadium Saga with potential stalemate-breaking news {link to Times' site, featuring a nice photo of my shoulder and ear}:
An agreement between the Rays and St. Petersburg that would allow the team to begin conversations about future stadium sites seems to be growing near, based on conversations with those involved.
The story is light on details and heavy on innuendo.  However, Romano indicates the major sticking point of former mayor Bill Foster's negotiations with the Rays - the price the team would pay if it breaks its contract - may be omitted from these negotiations:
Instead, the team might be allowed to look at potential sites in Hillsborough County with further discussions in St. Pete to follow.
This is dangerous legal territory;  both Foster and the city's attorney, John Wolfe, (as well as this blog) have expressed caution over giving up leverage without guarantees in return.  Remember, MLB teams are far better than municipalities when it comes to creating and maximizing leverage.

St. Pete's new mayor, Rick Kriseman, is also an attorney by trade, like Foster.  And he reminds us that two attorneys can come up with two completely different interpretations of the same contract language.

We have yet to see what kind of agreement - if any - may be ironed out, but until Wolfe retires, you can expect Kriseman and city council to continue to hear his warnings

Romano's column also touches upon Lightning owner Jeffrey Vinik's plans to forge ahead on Downtown Tampa redevelopment without baseball {read here to find out why}.  But he echoes the point that there is no real shortage of land for a possible stadium in the neighborhood.

He also mentions Tampa's Westshore district, which both the ABC Coalition and this blog have long considered a logical stadium location.  It serves as the region's business hub as well as its darn-near-geographical center of population.  Romano says a 60-acre plot, where Jefferson High and two other schools sit, could accommodate a stadium:
West Shore, along with downtown Tampa, were the two Hillsborough sites identified by that blue-ribbon committee as having the corporate base necessary for a stadium location. If Hillsborough officials decide that land is in play, it creates another potential stadium site that would have to be explored quickly before it is earmarked for something else.
We'll see how this chapter of the Stadium Saga plays out, but Mayor Kriseman remains in a tough spot.  Any concession on the current contract is a piece of leverage abandoned; but at some point, Kriseman and St. Pete may decide the positives of a compromise outweigh the negatives.

Romano's piece may be an indication of forthcoming progress or just wishful thinking from a regional-minded columnist.  He's right that a compromise could be a win-win-win for Pinellas, Hillsborough, and the Rays....but that depends on the terms of an agreement.

UPDATE: Mayor Kriseman's office tells me they haven't been communicating with the Rays lately; because the city is refinancing the bonds on Tropicana Field, they were advised to postpone all talks until the new financing is secured.


  1. Noah - could you explain that Westshore location to me? What would they do, tear down the 3 schools and then have 60 acres to play with? Would the city do this? Who owns the rest of the property? That area would clearly be the best location possible, with plenty of access in a out of the area.

  2. Tearing down those three schools is a horrible idea. For one, traffic in that area is already bad, especially at rush hour. Also, Jefferson HS is one of the original Tampa high schools, and it's already been torn down once when I-275 was routed through its original location. The other schools also have long histories, with Roland Park K-8 IB school drawing students from all over the county. Can we respect any history at all in this area?

  3. Like any other property (i.e. ConAgra in Downtown Tampa), there are costs associated with tearing down and displacing existing facilities. And like the stadium itself, nobody seems to have any money to make it happen.

    So at the end of the day, there are plenty of possible stadium locations...but until they figure out how to pay for the damn thing, there's no news to report.

  4. Noah keeps banging the drum that a stadium is hard to pay for. It isn't. More than enough money here to get one done. Maybe more than one.