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.
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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.
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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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