St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - It appears Tampa Bay was so excited about the possibility of a new Rays stadium on the other side of the bay, fans ignored the underlying warnings that the team and St. Petersburg were still "a long way off" in negotiations.
Mark Puente reports in today's Tampa Bay Times that negotiations between the Rays and St. Pete are "going badly" and Mayor Bill Foster penned a letter to city council indicating MLB may be all-but-sabotaging progress in the region:
"It has become apparent to me that Major League Baseball has no intention of assisting the city and Rays in reaching a mutually beneficial solution," Foster wrote in a memo to the council. "Nor does Major League Baseball seem interested in a cooperative effort to keep the Rays in the Tampa Bay Region for the long term."
Foster told council members he is committed to more talks but "cannot and will not support an outcome that is primarily at the public's expense."
Sticking points seem to center around how much the team would pay the city for leaving early and to demolish Tropicana Field.
This echoes a warning from the Shadow of the Stadium blog
on Aug 16:
Clearly, the Rays and St. Pete haven't found common ground yet on the ground rules of a search: either the financial terms or the legal limitations, designed to protect St. Pete's contractual interests.
It's no surprise these high-stakes negotiations public: the city wants to maximize its compensation while the Rays want to diminish the city's financial leverage.
But the Rays didn't seem happy about the seemingly broken handshake promise not to negotiate through the court of public opinion, issuing a statement calling Foster's memo "unfortunate and unproductive in so many ways.
TIMELINE: 10 News coverage of the Rays Stadium Saga
Foster piled it on MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, saying revenue sharing was his "sole motivation" and the league's failure to consider taxpayers' investment "is the real impediment to progress." As this blog has pointed out, a new Tampa Bay stadium could mean more to the league's richest teams than it does to the Rays.
Also interesting: some of Foster's typical critics on city council were not-so-quick to pounce on this political opportunity.
Councilman Charlie Gerdes, who authored the first failed amendment to allow the Rays to look in Tampa, told the Times "he doubts Foster is allowing politics to seep into the talks." And Councilwoman Leslie Curran suggested revisiting talks after the season, adding "there is no love lost between the Rays, the city and Bud Selig."
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