In an offering aimed at thawing the chilled relationship between the Tampa Bay Rays and the City of St. Petersburg over their ongoing stadium debate, Mayor Bill Foster put forth an olive branch last week that the team quickly rebuffed.
Foster initially said a lease with the city binds the team to play in Tropicana Field until 2027, but last week Foster softened his stance, offering Rays owner Stuart Sternberg a lease amendment to allow other sites in the city, or even in Pinellas County, which holds St. Petersburg.
Sternberg has continually said that, due to low attendance, his team cannot survive in Tropicana and must look in the entire Tampa Bay area for a new stadium site.
In a meeting this week with Foster, Rays President Matt Silverman said — after the mayor’s offer of an amendment — that the team must look throughout the region, including in Tampa and Hillsborough County, for stadium sites.
Silverman released this statement in part after the meeting:
To secure the long-term future of the Rays here, any search for a new ballpark site needs to explore all of the Tampa Bay region. This is what we repeated to Mayor Foster today. We thanked him for his gesture, and we conveyed to him again that we will consider sites in St. Petersburg and Gateway when we are considering all potential sites in Tampa Bay.
While they are just words now, the Rays engaged in talks with an entity about a stadium other than the city is a violation of the lease, which Foster and St. Peterterburg officials have assured will be challenged.