Thursday, October 1, 2015

St. Pete Council to Take Another Stab at Rays Compromise

The Braves' spring training pitch is doing just what it was designed to do inadvertently doing a favor for the Rays: creating leverage and getting local politicians to act faster on Tampa Bay's stadium stalemate.

Thursday at St. Pete's city council meeting, a number of Rays-related items will be discussed, including the request to earmark county bed tax dollars for a future MLB stadium (just in case).

The problem with that is, by pooling a specific stadium-related pot of money now - before the Rays have indicated how much they're willing to contribute - St. Pete/Pinellas is essentially negotiating against itself and setting a baseline contribution the region will be expected to contribute to a new stadium, regardless of location.  That baseline, of course, will only go up.

UPDATE: Mayor asked to reconsider Trop redevelopment study
UPDATE: Council pushes Rays bed tax resolution back a week

Also this week - first reported by Florida Politics' Mitch Perry - council chair Charlie Gerdes came up with a plan to bring back his "pay-to-stray" proposal that nearly passed council back in 2013. 

The Times also covered this Wednesday, writing Gerdes wants the Rays to pay an "exploration fee" of $1.4 million annually for the right to look in Hillsborough County.  That's basically the price of a backup catcher:
If the team decides to build in St. Petersburg or Pinellas, then there would be no more payments. If the Rays decide to build in Hillsborough County, they'll owe a set yearly payment of around $2.5 million for each year they don't play at Tropicana Field until the city's contract with the team expires in 2027.
Gerdes hopes some of the holdouts on council would get behind that proposal, but its worth pointing out the Rays haven't been willing to pay $2.5 million for each year they leave early...and they reportedly haven't been willing to pay for the right to look in Hillsborough County

An attorney by trade, Gerdes acknowledges it may be a difficult negotiation.  But he wants to bring the issue up now and get some sort of a vote in the next month or so - likely ahead of the city's Nov. 3 election.

Could renewed talks turn the tide of a council race or two?  Sure.  But I'm not sure which way.

A lot of St. Pete residents have lost their sympathy for the Rays' plight, and I've written how focusing the elections on the one issue of the Rays' stadium campaign may actually prompt St. Pete voters to support the compromise holdouts.  Remember, Rays fans in Tampa don't get to vote on St. Pete's council races.

ALSO READ: Newspapers may hurt own cause with stadium endorsements
ALSO READ: Times Doubles Down Support for Rays Sympathizers

Meanwhile, it's clear Tampa Bay is in hockey/football mode this first week of October, as the Rays' final home games of the season have produced some of their weakest crowds with back-to-back sub-10,000 games.

Also not helping the attendance situation:

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  1. "Meanwhile, it's clear Tampa Bay is in hockey/football mode this first week of October, as the Rays' final home games of the season have produced some of their weakest crowds with back-to-back sub-10,000 games."

    It's just one excuse after another. What is clear is that Tampa Bay is just not that into the Rays.... football, hockey, a train convention.... whatever it is seems to "distract" the so-called fans from attending games. Time to face reality here.

  2. Nah, all by design, the owner keeps the team just a little less than competitive to quell interest. Easier to move the team that way. Rays in Ybor soon. You can take that to the bank.

  3. You got one thing right... easier to move the team... to MONTREAL!

  4. Manfred is serious about international expansion, although he is saying all the right things to maintain interest domestically, as to not alienate our B-level cities like Portland, Charlotte, or San Antonio. Either way, the good folks in St Pete need to get moving and settle this issue once and for all. I remember the last time a team and city couldn't agree on a new park, MLB got involved, and just like that the Washington Nationals were reborn.

    1. And this is why some council members in St-Pete want to reserve some money (in order to block any other project to take the extra 1% Bed Tax).

      It will be interesting to see how County Commission and Tourist Development Council will approach the Rays when the Rays can't talk to any parties about a new stadium! Does St-Pete will be involved in those discussions?

      Regarding internationalization, Mexico is a long term project. So that means MLB is still looking for investors over there. I think MLB is more interested than Mexico is.

      My guess is that Vancouver will step in at some point. Beside Rodgers (Blue Jays) and Bell (involved actively in Montreal), Telus is probably the other possible major investor on the west coast of Canada that could be interested. 3 teams in Canada make perfect sense especially that there is a regional natural rivalry with Seattle and other cities on this side of the continent.

      With the latest financial results from Rogers, only the Blue Jays success in 2015 is evaluated as $0.50 of profit per share. With such results, Bell must be excited to take the lead in Montreal.

      And Telus is probably thinking that it may be interesting considering their Internet, mobile, IPTV and Satellite TV offerings. They also could team-up with Shaw for that part.

      That's why Canada is probably more interesting mid-term than Mexico.

    2. I would love to see a team in Vancouver. The natural rivalry with the Jays, Mariners, and Expos would be great, plus it wouldn't add much travel to West Coast trips. I believe it is a foregone conclusion that Montreal will be getting a team in the not too distant future. My only concern is that it could take a while for any other city to get to Montreal's level, which could delay things.

      It seems as if things are progressing quickly, with complete 180 turn from the commissioner's office on the topic of expansion. And yet here we are, sitting in a quiet and sparsely attended Tropicana Field, regardless of record, engaged in a decade long staring contest, hoping to find a location where people will turn off their TVs, and come watch live baseball.