I spoke with Nurse several times last week about how the Rays deal fell apart (temporarily), and he echoes many of the same sentiments this week. An excerpt:
Ironically, the issue that caused the most heartburn for the council is, as a result of the significant rebirth of downtown, the value of the 85-acre Tropicana Field site. The use agreement originally assumed that a hotel would be built next to the Trop and the parties would split the revenue. That made sense under those circumstances. Now, however, with the Rays wanting to look at other locations in the bay area, it is the city's responsibility to try to manage transition in a manner that generates a net positive number of jobs and revenue as quickly as practical.
If the Rays come back to the city with an agreement to leave town and terminate their use of the Trop early, it seems grossly unfair to force the city to split the redevelopment revenue from this site. The Trop site is the largest piece of urban land potentially available for redevelopment in Central Florida. It may be worth up to $100 million. The alternative to splitting the development revenue is to wait until the Rays vacate the site. This is clearly not an attractive option.
If the Rays come back with a termination agreement to stay in St. Petersburg if a new stadium is built, then the revenue from the sale and redevelopment of the Trop will form the foundation to fund the new facility. I believe most people would accept that. This is the best option for our community, and should be our initial focus.
The reason the redevelopment issue comes up now is that it amounts to tens of millions of dollars from the potential sale or lease of the land. Also, this is the last opportunity for the City Council to raise this issue. The memorandum of understanding that the mayor and the Rays presented to council requires us to approve a future termination agreement as long as the Rays accept the termination fee. It was speak up now, or accept it later.
Council members have spoken since the meeting, wishing the mayor and the Rays a relaxing holiday. Then, please sit down and bring back an agreement that the Rays, the mayor and the City Council can approve.