Pinellas leaders ponder possible Rays move to Tampa

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Even before news broke that Hillsborough County had worked out a land deal to build a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays, Pinellas County Commission Chair Janet long was already talking about that possibility.

“The clock is ticking and it is coming to the point of decision making,” Long told other Pinellas commissioners at a workshop meeting Tuesday morning.

Long predicted there would be a development in two to three weeks.

“I am in conversations with Brian and Melanie from the Rays and they are in a holding pattern and they are in a holding pattern as they wait for Hillsborough County to bring forward what, if anything, they’re actually going to bring forward and offer for the Rays on a particular site.”

As it turned out, by day’s end, Hillsborough Commissioner Ken Hagan was announcing he’d cobbled together enough land parcels to build a stadium and that the Rays had agreed in principle to such a move.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has been dealing with such “what-ifs” for some time.

Before hearing of the Hagan deal, Kriseman told 8 on Your Side there is a silver lining at the Tropicana Field site even if the Rays leave his city for a new stadium in Tampa.

“If there were to decide to leave, instead of 70 acres of development, you have 86 acres in play and a lot of business will come there, a lot of residential, a lot of parkland. That site will come alive still.”

Pinellas Commissioner Charlie Justice was the one who asked for an update on the Rays at Tuesday’s Pinellas Commission workshop. He later seemed at peace with a possible move that would free up $6-$8 million a year in bed taxes for other purposes if they aren’t used to build a new Rays stadium somewhere in Pinellas.

“We want the Rays to stay in the community. We want them to stay in Tampa Bay,” Justice said.  “Obviously, the further east they get from Pinellas County, that becomes more problematic for our residents, but we certainly want them to stay in Tampa Bay.”

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