Fall city council elections appear to have finally given St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman the five votes he needs to pass a year-old compromise that allows the Rays to explore stadium sites outside city limits in other parts of Pinellas County, as well as in Hillsborough County, where Tampa Bay's center of population lies.
The agreement, which could be approved by St. Petersburg's new council in early January, would essentially allow the Rays to leave Tropicana Field prior to the expiration of their previously-agreed-upon contract in 2027, but only for a new stadium in Pinellas or Hillsborough counties. If they leave St. Pete, the Rays would owe the city about $2 million per year - a figure that has been poorly reported and is also significantly less than other teams have paid to break their stadium contracts...as well as a fraction of what the Times once suggested the Rays should pay.
2015 also brought us other headlines, such as confusion about the team's TV contract (which we now think was quietly extended by a few years) and ramifications from the Bucs' stadium subsidy grab in Hillsborough County.
And a few other notable developments in 2015:
- Everyone has an idea for a new Rays stadium site...but nobody in Hillsborough County is talking about the elephant in the room - how to pay for it. The county's tax coffers are broke.
- The Tampa Bay Times editorial board continues its relentless push for taxpayers to cough up hundreds of millions to help the Rays build a new stadium with more than a dozen editorials on the subject. Meanwhile, the team's value has surged to a Forbes-estimated $625 million.
- The Times also went to great lengths to show how much revenue St. Pete was losing by using prime real estate for a baseball stadium...but it took a post on this site to show how much Tampa would lose under the same scenario.
- Hillsborough County's top stadium advocate also agrees that the county loses money when the Bucs play home games in the county's stadium...but he still wants to get a deal done for the Rays, even if it means neglecting to give taxpayers a say in it.
- Montreal fans have given Tampa Bay fans lots of fits this year despite their lack of tangible progress on building a new stadium. But one loyal Shadow of the Stadium follower did pose this very important question: have the Rays really created enough fanatics in their 18 years of existence?
- The state's top economist suggested stadium subsidies are a terrible deal for taxpayers, but the governor and some lawmakers kept pushing for more. And while four pro teams said state dollars were necessary to complete vital renovation projects, they didn't get the money...and all went ahead with their projects anyway.
- Despite five years of editorials & columns warning that St. Pete would lose leverage if it didn't cut a deal with the Rays...they really haven't lost any. The Rays are still basically asking for the same deal they asked then-mayor Bill Foster for in 2010...and they've even sweetened it with development rights to try and win over hesitant councilmembers. Who knows how good the offer would be if the city refused to budge from its 2010 offer like the Rays have!
- A new Rays stadium in Pinellas County isn't out of the question. It may even be the most likely scenario.
- And the Bucs don't like tough questions about their future, even though it's safe to say they'll use London as leverage in a decade to squeeze Hillsborough Co. for more tax dollars.
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