Plan allows Rays to look in Hillsborough County

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – A proposal put forward by St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman would allow the Rays to look for possible stadium sites throughout the Tampa Bay area.

St. Petersburg’s city council is expected to approve the plan next week. This agreement would open the door for Hillsborough County to begin discussions with the Rays about a possible move.

According to the agreement, the team:

  • Must inform the city of how it will evaluate potential sites
  • The evaluation must be a minimum of six months to allow the city to make its case that the Rays should stay put.
  • The Rays will pay 50 percent for a new city directed master plan for redeveloping the Tropicana Field site.

“The site they’re currently sitting on provides the best opportunities of any other site in our two counties,” Kriseman said.

Developing the 75 acres where the Trop sits will provide the city with a boat load of cash that could help finance a new stadium. Developer fees will go into an account controlled by the city. If the Rays stay, they get half of that, if they leave, the city keeps it.

Hillsborough County is prepared to begin meaningful discussions with the Rays, commissioner Ken Hagan said. “The day an agreement is reached with the team, I will place a call to Rays president Brian Ault and it would be my hope that we can sit down within a matter of weeks,” Hagan said.

Former Tampa mayor Dick Greco
Former Tampa mayor Dick Greco

Westshore, Downtown, Channelside and Ybor City offer possible relocation opportunities, Hagan added. He’s already formed a committee of government and private sector leaders. Hillsborough County has lined up a law firm that specializes in dealing with Major League Baseball.

“The goal has been to get our ducks in a row, so once the clock begins ticking that we can have a compressed timeline. Because after wasting six or seven years, now I don’t think we have the luxury of sitting back and waiting very much longer,” Hagan added.

Former Tampa mayor Dick Greco, who helped develop malls throughout the country with the Debartolo Corporation, now lives in St. Petersburg.  He thinks it’s possible to see a stadium near Downtown Tampa, or east of Nebraska Avenue – even at the Florida State Fairgrounds. Greco sees great benefits for St. Petersburg as long as the Rays stay in the Tampa Bay area.

“This land over here in St. Petersburg is worth a fortune. One of the things they”ve put in there, if developers want to come in and do something with it the city would benefit with some of that,” Greco said.

Of Kriseman’s efforts to keep the Rays, Greco said, “He’s being very careful to protect the people’s dollars and to keep the Rays if he can. He also recognizes that if it goes a mile or two down the street or 10 miles away, it’s still a benefit to St. Petersburg, to Tampa, to Clearwater, to the whole area.”

Read the full proposal here.

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