According to reports, the Tampa Bay Rays are nearing an agreement with St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman that will finally allow the club to survey Hillsborough County, in hopes of finding an acceptable site for a new stadium. This has been a wish of the organization for several years.
St. Petersburg developer Craig Sher indicated that this deal is most likely imminent when he said, “I’ve been led to believe that there’s an agreement in principle”. There’s no timetable for this deal, but Kriseman “would like to get it done within the next month but definitely before Christmas”, according to Council Chairman Bill Dudley. It’s still unclear what this potential agreement would entail.
The current home of the Rays, Tropicana Field, has been widely criticized and disparaged due to its substandard playing conditions and unfavorable location. Perennially near the bottom of the league in attendance, the Rays could desperately use a change, and owner Stuart Sternberg is optimistic that a move to the other side of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge might be just the thing that ameliorates the problem.
This news comes just weeks after the rumors surfaced that Sternberg was toying with the idea of moving the franchise to Montreal. One has to wonder if that was just a ploy to intensify the pressure on the city of St. Petersburg to comply with the wishes of the organization.
The team’s lease with Tropicana Field runs through 2027, so in order to play somewhere else, the Rays would be have to not only compensate the city of St. Pete an undisclosed amount, but also pay for the eradication of the Trop. There’s a lot of details that must be worked out, but this agreement would be a huge first step in the right direction.