St. Pete mayor ends talks with Rays over new local stadium

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman announced the city will no longer negotiate the Rays' shared-city idea with Montreal, effectively shutting the door to the Rays playing in another city before 2028.

Kriseman told city council members in a letter that negotiations over the Rays' pitch to split the season between St. Petersburg and Montreal have concluded. The mayor added that team officials declined a new offer to renew the memo of understanding that would've allowed the team to explore a future full-time stadium in the Tampa Bay area -- not just in St. Pete or Pinellas County.

Back in June, Rays owner Stu Sternberg announced plans to explore the possibility of splitting the team's season between Montreal and the Tampa Bay area. At the time, Kriseman rejected the idea.

"As I stated earlier this year, while the City of St. Petersburg is willing to discuss contributing to the funding for a new stadium for a full-time team here in St. Petersburg, we will not contribute public dollars to construct a stadium for a part-time team," Kriseman wrote Wednesday, adding that the city will begin looking harder at plans to redevelop the Tropicana Field site without a baseball stadium.

He said both parties agreed the best path forward is to abide by the existing use agreement, with the understanding it allows them to explore whatever they want post-2027.

"2028 is going to be here before you know it," said Kriseman. "There are some decisions that the team is going to have to make." 

Don't worry, he insisted, they need Tampa Bay more than it needs them.

"If you look to the past, you see attendance that has lagged," he explained. "If you look to the future, you see a city that is very different. You see a city that is exploding, growing. You see a region that is exploding and growing." 

The Rays released a statement, saying they don't agree with the mayor's characterization that both sides agree negotiations should have ended. Further, they also said they asked to talk with Tampa about a shared-city concept. 

"We recognize we must now consider our post 2027 options and all that entails, and we remain steadfast in our belief the sister-city concept is deserving of serious consideration," the statement read.

And that's where the difference lies.

"That's how I left it with those guys," said Kriseman. "If you want to talk about a full-time stadium here in St. Petersburg, just call me." 

The top Hillsborough County negotiator, Ken Hagan said: "This does not impact our efforts to ensure the Rays remain in Tampa Bay for generations to come." 

He added, "We are prepared for and look forward to discussion post 2027 opportunities in Hillsborough with the team."

It's not immediately clear what this means for the team's future. The Rays are tied to their Tropicana Field lease through 2027.