TAMPA, Fla. — Hillsborough County commissioners want a written commitment from the Tampa Bay Rays to move the team to Ybor City.

Ahead of the commission's meeting on Wednesday, County Administrator Mike Merrill released a memo.

In it, Merrill detailed a "responsible and feasible framework that could be proposed as a basis for future negotiations" with the Rays.

They want the Rays to commit on how much the team is willing to put financially to make the new Ybor stadium a reality.

Under new tax rules, the Ybor site is designated as an "Opportunity Zone" which means it's an invitation for outside tax-free private investment.

That's a main reason; the county administrator wrote the memo explaining why it's a good deal for the team.


Rendering of a proposed new Rays stadium in Ybor City


"Here's a framework that works that avoids using public money," said Mike Merrill, Hillsborough County Administrator. "The Rays need to tell us if they are interested in negotiating that framework."

The meeting is also expected to be the first time commissioners hear and discuss publicly the new county evaluations.

The memo makes clear so far:

1. There have been no negotiations to date of any possible stadium deal framework.

2. This is a briefing update to the Commission, not a recommendation or request for action.

3. The Rays have yet to consider and accept a deal framework as a basis to begin negotiations.

"As far as I know, nothing's been put forward as we approach the December 31st deadline," said Commissioner Pat Kemp about the Rays lack of plans for the looming deadline.

The team has a December 31 deadline to make a decision if they are in fact leaving St. Petersburg, which has a contract with the Rays through 2027.

The deadline is part of an agreement with the Sunshine City to give the Rays time to evaluate locations in Hillsborough.

The St. Pete Mayor's office said they hope the team stays in St. Pete and is ready to find a new stadium for them there.

As for an extension request, Mayor Rick Kriseman has not received one from the Rays and he is not commenting at this time.

The Hillsborough memo also proposed a final negotiation deadline for April 30, 2019.

On the following day, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn ends his term. He plans to be a major player in the negotiations.

In a text his communications team told Spectrum Bay News 9, "Any land use changes, zoning decisions, or the establishment of special assessment districts will be by the city of Tampa."

Hillsborough County wants the Rays to be committed to half the cost of the stadium estimated at more than $800 million.