St. Pete mayor reopens talks on future of Rays stadium site

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida, is reopening talks about the future of the Tropicana Field site where baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays play their home games.

Mayor Ken Welch that two previous proposals for the 86-acre (348,000-square-meter) downtown location are being scrapped, with a new round of plans to be solicited beginning in mid-August. Welch, St. Petersburg’s first Black mayor, has made a priority of including such things as affordable housing and greater job opportunities along with Rays baseball.

Welch said the goal is to choose a new redevelopment plan by year’s end. The Rays’ Tropicana Field lease is up in 2027 and Welch said the new plan should envision including a stadium at the site.

“I don’t believe waiting a few months to get this right is unreasonable,” the mayor said at a news conference near Tropicana Field. “I think St. Petersburg is the best opportunity for the Rays. It’s about making sure we’ve got the right plan for where we are in 2022.”

The Rays have played at the domed, tilted Tropicana Field since their inaugural 1998 season. The site is in the former Gas Plant neighborhood, where Black-owned businesses and homes were uprooted for the stadium’s original development and, before that, interstate highway construction. Welch said a goal is to restore some of that former neighborhood, where his father ran a wood yard business years ago.

“It’s about rebuilding a community that was there and was dispersed,” he said, holding an axe handle from his father’s business.

Despite regular success on the field, the Rays consistently have among the lowest attendance figures in Major League Baseball. The team has looked into moving, perhaps in Tampa’s Ybor City area, and also discussed splitting the season between St. Petersburg and Montreal until MLB called a halt to that idea.

The previous bidders for the plan – developers Sugar Hill and Midtown Development – can submit new proposals under the new process, Welch said. The former mayor, Rick Kriseman, had chosen the Midtown plan just before leaving office.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in June that the Rays and Oakland Athletics need to reach new ballpark deals soon and left open the possibility of considering relocation if agreements are not struck.

“There is urgency with respect to Tampa,” Manfred said during a news conference following an owners meeting. “There needs to be a resolution in the Tampa Bay region for the Rays.”

Welch said the new redevelopment plan should bring certainty to the Rays and rebuild, to some extent, the community that was torn apart by previous projects.

“We’ve been waiting for decades,” the mayor said. “The Rays stadium question has to be answered.”

Brian Cashman signs 4-year contract to remain Yankees GM

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SAN DIEGO — Brian Cashman has signed a four-year contract to remain the New York Yankees Senior Vice President and General Manager. The announcement was made during the first day of baseball’s Winter Meetings.

Cashman, New York’s GM since 1998, had been working on a handshake agreement since early November, when his five-year contract expired.

The Yankees were swept by four games in the AL Championship Series and haven’t reached the World Series since winning in 2009. It is the franchise’s longest title drought since an 18-year gap between 1978-96.

Cashman’s main goal during the offseason is trying to re-sign AL MVP Aaron Judge.

Judge hit an American League-record 62 homers this season with a .311 batting average and 131 RBIs. He turned down the Yankees’ offer on the eve of opening day of a seven-year contract that would have paid $213.5 million from 2023-29.

While Judge remains on the market, Cashman was able to re-sign Anthony Rizzo on Nov. 15 to a two-year contract worth $40 million after turning down a $16 million player option.

Cashman has been the Yankees general manager since 1998. He has been with the organization since 1986, when he was a 19-year old intern in the scouting department. In his 25 seasons as GM, the Yankees have reached the postseason 21 times, including four World Series championships and six American League titles.