Getting permission from St. Petersburg's city council to look at baseball stadium sites other than Tropicana Field may soon look like the easy part of finding a new home for Tampa Bay Rays.
"The decision to keep the Rays here and find a solution deserves our best efforts," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said Friday. "We may fall short...we all have to be cognizant of that fact, that we have limited resources."
Buckhorn spoke to reporters the day after St. Petersburg's city council amended the Rays use agreement for Tropicana Field. The current lease has an unusually tough provision that prevented the Rays from discussing stadium locations other than the Trop through 2027.
Team owners have refused to consider rebuilding in St. Petersburg until they could look at sites elsewhere in Pinellas county and in Hillsborough county, especially in downtown Tampa.
Buckhorn said he assumes the Rays want an urban core setting, "...that's pedestrian friendly, where there is ancillary development around the stadium that affords people the opportunity to come down from the towers where they are working or living and walk to the game."
After a brief review of several possible sites, the mayor observed, "none of these deals are uncomplicated. There's going to be issues associated with all of the sites that compound the challenge."
Buckhorn emphasized, "the overriding and overriding goal is to keep the Rays in the bay area, be it Pinellas or Hillsborough county."
The next step in process is up to the Rays: They have 60 days to provide St. Petersburg a document describing in general terms the process that will be used to evaluate all potential future stadium sites in both counties.
After Thursday's St. Petersburg city council decision, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg told a new conference, "I have no sites in mind...I'm a very big believer in not spending a lot of time on things until the opportunity presents itself."
Rays president Brian Auld said, "We intend to take a completely fresh look at the entire stadium building process and all those criteria and there may be ideas we haven't thought of yet."