The Tampa Bay Rays said Thursday they are ready to start talking with both the Hillsborough and Pinellas county commissions about the possibility of moving the team from Tropicana Field.
The Rays said they would be willing to explore a private developer's proposal for a new stadium in Pinellas County, as long as the city of St. Petersburg allows them to negotiate with other interested parties in Hillsborough County.
Owner Stu Sternberg also wrote a letter to St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster proposing to amend the contract between the two parties that keeps the Rays at Tropicana Field through 2027.
The Rays asked Foster to do more than just talk about possibilities and possibly engage in negotiations if the right situations presented themselves. The Rays also promised the City veto power over any final deal.
The current contract allows the City to sue the Rays or any party who negotiates with the team on a new site.
This letter also promises that the Rays would begin their search for a possible new stadium by meeting with CityScape, a private development firm that is headed up by local businessman Darryl LeClair. Two weeks ago, CityScape presented detailed plans for a proposed stadium worth more than $500,000 in the Carillon Business Park.
The team also sent out letters to update both Hillsborough and Pinellas county commissioners that they would meet with them sometime before the end of the year.
Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch told our partners at the Tampa Bay Times, "The letter is a very exciting development and I think it moves us towards a much needed dialogue between the Rays and their partners," Welch said. "There's the fear that once you open the door, they're going to run to some other part of the country, another state. But this limits it to Pinellas or Hillsborough, and I'm very confident that Pinellas County can compete with any other location in the Bay area."
Ken Hagan, the chairman of the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners told Bay News 9, that he is "encouraged by the dialogue. Anything that is going to help move the needle, I am encouraged by. We need to have business leaders, like Mr. LeClair and political leaders on both sides of the Bay sitting down with the Rays talking, doing everything that we can to ensure the Rays remain in our region for the long-term."
Mayor Foster said any type of negotiations would not be played out in the media while LeClair would not return our requests for comments.