Friday, December 19, 2014

Morning-After Fallout from St. Pete's Rejection of Rays Deal

It's evident there are still a lot of jaws on the floor after the surprising defeat of last night's Rays deal in St. Pete council. That included Mayor Rick Kriseman,  officials in Hillsborough County, and weirdly, the Ted Williams' Hitters Hall of Fame, which is located in Tropicana Field.

READ: The 10 Most Important Tweets from Council Chambers

Of course, that also includes the regional-minded Times editorial board, which ripped off a scolding editorial entitled, "St. Pete's Minor League Council."

But there was a much different tone in the reporting on the issue last night in different outlets (as well as my own, WTSP-TV).  The Times' writes:
Council members got their backs up when Rays President Brian Auld refused to yield an iota on development rights on Tropicana Field and other issues.

Council member Darden Rice, who voted for the agreement, said the Rays blew the deal with their presentation.

"I think at one point we had five votes,'' Rice said. "But I was very disappointed by Auld's response to Karl Nurse's question about development rights. It was either tone deafness or arrogance.''
Dudley said he felt like the Rays were making ultimatums. "I don't like arrogance,'' he said.
"The deal breaker for me was the idea that they want us to abide by the use agreement for redevelopment purposes, where they can benefit,'' Foster said, "but they didn't want to abide by the use agreement'' by staying at the Trop. 
Times columnist John Romano, an ardent supporter of Mayor Kriseman's compromise, picked up on it too, writing St. Pete's city council may have picked up a big "save" for the city:
The Rays recognize the redevelopment profits are extremely valuable, and that's probably why Auld was so curt when Nurse asked him about it.
But the team also has to realize that council members have a duty to stick up for their residents, and it doesn't look good if the Rays get to leave town early AND pocket serious money in the process.

Here's another way of looking at it:

The Rays are asking the city to get out of the use agreement early so they can move on with their lives.

And yet they seem to be suggesting that they would invoke that same agreement to hold the city hostage when it tries to move on with redevelopment.

Don't panic yet, fans, all is not lost. As I wrote last week, it would either be bad PR or bad business for the Rays not to re-negotiate the sticking points.

I also wrote how the Rays were the ones with the ultimatum of "take it or leave it," and could have easily said they'd continue to compromise on any sticking points.  It's not like they were breaking the bank in the initial proposal.

St. Pete councilman Jim Kennedy took it a step further yesterday:
As the Times' Marc Topkin told my WTSP-TV colleagues this morning, the team will likely take some time to lick its wounds.  But there remains opportunity to capitalize on the framework of the negotiated deal.

Yes, the Rays will have to address city council's concerns.  And yes, it may require them to concede a few million more over the next decade.  But if the team really wants this, doesn't it make sense to swallow its pride and re-negotiate?

My pal Jonah Keri made a great point last night about the Rays' desire to look elsewhere:
We'll see more reaction over the next few days, but for now, it's likely on the Rays to make the next move.  Was that deal really their last/best offer?
It may determine whether their front office continues to get the "Jeff Vinik" treatment or if they start to go down the path of unpopular owners like Jeffrey Loria.


  1. Certainly won't help their brand, and with the team not looking as strong in 2015, who's to say how this will affect season ticket sales and sponsors? The Rays will have to make concessions on their 50/50 land development option if they want this to work.

  2. The question is does the Rays want it to work?

    Does St-Petersburg is "Pitch Perfect" in term of location, attendance, growth, support, ... ?

    Does the Rays wanted to use the MOU to demonstrate politely that it will not be viable an they need to go elsewhere?

    If the Rays believe in St-Petersburg, they will re-re-re-re-negotiate again. If not, then they will move on and play hardball with the development rights.

    I believe there are too many questions (site, financing, attendance, ...) at this stage with the MOU refusal yesterday, they will move on elsewhere. There is no way they can negotiate again in my mind. They have a lot to loose by negotiating again.

  3. I can't see any way for the Rays to stay here in the Bay area... :( We ask them to pay more to break the use agreement or to concede profits on the Trop land developments, BUT then we want them to pay for a new stadium..?

    It's already unlikely that Florida & TB taxpayers pay a significant portion with the Loria-Marlins Park fiasco. I feel like there can't be much more to negotiate..

    One thing we Rays fans fall back on is the fact that the use agreement runs through 2027, so the team is here for another decade plus. But do any of us really expect them to play at the Trop for 12 more years? COME ON NOW, THERE'S NO WAY THAT'S HAPPENING.

    If a city with more money, more taxpayers, more businesses (like Montreal, we might as well stop denying it), makes an offer better than what the Rays have seen here, the team is leaving.

    1. I agree that Montreal is willing and waiting to re-locate the Rays. They have the history, the backing and deserve to have another MLB team....100,000 people for 2 spring training games last March. Keep an eye on the other two games coming in April 85-90,000 people will be there again.....Must I say more???

  4. I believe the stadium saga is far from over! I think there is room for compromise and the two sides will eventually reach a mutually acceptable deal. Regardless of all that I've heard over the last 10 days or so, the Rays don't want to stay in St. Pete-and don't want the Carrillon site either. They're going to eventually end up on the Tampa side of the bay-which is the right choice.

  5. Run away from a commitment (lease) that existed well before a purchase agreement with the previous ownership group was signed then hope goodwill created by investing in a product (players, stadium upgrades, charitable contributions, etc.) allows for the collection of free money (redevelopment) in the future? The current ownership group has done remarkable things both on and off the field but none of them add up to the financial windfall they would receive if allowed to collect anything from St. Petersburg if they don't abide by the existing and/or revised terms of their lease. The city and county have contributed enough to baseball so I salute the council members past and current that stood up for their constituents.