St. Pete councilor hopes negotiations start soon with Rays

The Rays made it official, telling St. Petersburg they are done looking for a new stadium in Hillsborough County.

The news arrived at the mayor's office via FedEx, in the form of a hundred-some-odd word letter in which the Rays effectively told the city they're done with Tampa.

"Within a year, to a year in a half, they will announce they are going to stay in St. Pete," predicted Mark Ferguson, owner of Ferg's.

Now the city might try to convince the team to build at the Tropicana Field site; a team that only seven months ago said they liked Ybor partly because of the larger pool of residents it's near.

"What they did last season was amazing," said Steve Kornell, a city council member. "I think that fits our city perfectly."

Kornell points out the Rays are entitled to half of the Trop's redevelopment revenues, as long as they stay on site.

In addition, Kornell says a regional public transportation plan would go a long way to convincing the Rays more fans will be willing to visit the Trop site than who currently do.

"Now they can get a nice ride over on a train or a bus that has a rapid bus transit lane, or even a ferry, now you have changed the whole equation," said Kornell. "I think everyone recognizes that."

One question councilors in St. Pete will face, beyond a funding formula, is how to involve the neighboring community, which is already making a push for affordable housing and permanent jobs to be created on the 86-acre site whether a stadium is built or not.

"We have a chance to correct some of the past with what we do with the stadium," he said.

St. Pete will also argue because it already controls the land, the Trop site offers quicker times to start building than other potential sites in Pinellas, like Derby Lane.

Fans we spoke to are approaching the news of Pinellas or bust, with caution.

"It is probably a 50-50 chance," said fan Todd Meltzer. "I hope they stay in St. Pete. I really do. I hope they stay right here on this site."

Last week, the mayor's office said it was going to move forward with plans to redevelop the Trop site with a stadium or without one.

Councilor Kornell says it is too early to discuss potential funding formulas without knowing what the Rays will put forward.

Kornell is hoping the Rays begin negotiations with St. Petersburg soon.