St. Pete to discuss letting Rays look at new stadium sites

The chairman of the St. Petersburg City Council has called a special meeting to discuss letting the Tampa Bay Rays look at sites for a new baseball stadium in both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. 

The Rays' use agreement at Tropicana Field forbids looking beyond the Trop until 2027. Twice last year the city council rejected "look-see" contract amendments negotiated by the mayor and Rays management. 

Council chairman Charlie Gerdes is attempting to reverse the political flow. 

"It removes the uncertainty on the Rays' side. Will council approve this or not?" Gerdes told FOX 13.

The special meeting will start with terms Gerdes has crafted. Under his proposal, the Rays could look at stadium sites in both counties for free. 

"I've chosen to allow the looking period for free because they're looking in St. Petersburg, and I don't want to charge them for that," Gerdes explained.

Should the Rays select a site outside St. Petersburg, they would initially pay $1.4 million a year. 

"Three years, four years, however long it takes them to build at the new location. That would be $1.4 million a year," Gerdes said. 

Once the franchise actually vacates Tropicana Field, it will continue to cost the Rays.

"For every year that they're absent from the site up until 2027, it's $2.5 million," he continued.

In round numbers, $20 million appears to be the maximum exposure to the Rays to leave St. Petersburg before the end of its use agreement. 

Gerdes said he is trying to assuage some council members who objected to the compensation in earlier unsuccessful "look-see" deals. 

"The Rays made it very clear. They're not going to consider a deal that's better than what was on the table before," Mayor Rick Kriseman said.

However, Kriseman said he has been working with Gerdes and will be happy to convey any city council proposal to the Rays. That may happen before the city council acts. 

"I think it's important to let them know, 'Hey, I'm working with council, we're trying to come up with something that's palatable to them, and would palatable to you,'" Kriseman said. "Hopefully we're able to do that."

The special meeting of the city council will be next Thursday at 2 p.m.