Tampa mayor meets with Rays to discuss team's future

It's not a home run, but call it a solid single. Lead Hillsborough negotiator Ken Hagan, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, and the Tampa Bay Rays met for two-and-a-half hours in the mayor's office Monday, their first meeting in over a year.

"We had a very productive meeting this afternoon," said Hagan. "I was extremely pleased with the level of dialogue that we had."

Afterward, the mayor said she's "optimistic," and the team called the meeting "meaningful." 

The split-city concept with Montreal is the focus, even if Tampa  Bay officials are still uncertain.

"I am still hopeful that we can go back to the original model and framework of an entire season in Ybor City," said Hagan. "I take the Rays at their word. Right now we are only considering a split-season concept."

Fans hit the Rays with tough questions this weekend at Fan Fest: Why should they be the only of North America's 123 major sports teams to share?

"It is a little unconventional. It's going to take time," said team president Matt Silverman. "Judging by the number of hands and enthusiasm in the crowd, we are going to need to do some fan Q-and-A in a different setting."

The first meetings in Tampa in over a year come as St. Pete council members put pressure on their mayor to explain where things stand. 

At a public meeting two weeks ago, Mayor Rick Kriseman said he'd tell them in private, but insisted St. Pete is still ahead in the count.

"In 2028, the Rays get zero dollars from any redevelopment that occurs on the land," Kriseman said January 30. "The clock is ticking. But not for us. For the Rays."

Kriseman has steadfastly said his side's public money should not be used for a part-stadium. But Hagan suggested there may be several avenues to help them pay.

"We did not get to that level of discussion but it will have to be a minimum of 50-50 as it was last time."

Because of their agreement with St. Petersburg, they are only discussing options after 2027.
Hagan says the baseball commissioner is not 100-percent signed off, but he does say other owners believe it is worth considering.
A date for another meeting has not been set yet, but he is hoping they'll be able to meet monthly.