Three years ago the city of St. Petersburg gave the Tampa Bay Rays a three-year window in which to negotiate with municipalities other than St. Petersburg for a new ballpark. If the window closes with no agreement the Rays are stuck in Tropicana Field for their full lease, which runs through 2027.
Earlier this year the Rays announced a tentative agreement for a new stadium across the bay in Ybor City in Tampa. The “tentative” part is that there was no funding in place for the ballpark and, of course, the Rays don’t really feel like paying all that much of the cost for their own facility.
As Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports today, that three-year window is almost up, ending on December 31. Which means the pressure is on:
But the team and elected leaders have yet to publicly reveal how the community would help pay almost $900 million to move the team to a new ballpark in Ybor City.
With elections now out of the way, negotiations between the team and city and county officials on a ballpark financing plan are expected to kick into high gear. That included meetings last week between recently re-elected Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan and Irwin Raij, the county’s outside counsel on stadium issues.
Isn’t it funny how there was not much activity regarding how to give a professional sports team money from “the community” before the elections but now that the elections are over, things are about to kick into high gear? It’s almost as if everyone involved knows that it’s unpopular for “the community” to pay a baseball team’s way into a new ballpark that will benefit the baseball team almost exclusively.