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City releases long-awaited Rays non-relocation agreement

Mark Parker



A stringent non-relocation agreement that will legally-bind the Tampa Bay Rays to St. Petersburg was released Thursday. Image provided.

In January 2023, Mayor Ken Welch compared a partnership between St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Rays to an engagement. The betrothed announced the team was “Here to Stay” in September.

Over eight months of closed-door negotiations ensued, and dozens of agreements slowly emerged over the past six weeks. However, a critical document highlighting the Rays’ commitment to St. Petersburg remained publicly elusive – until Thursday.

City officials released a much anticipated non-relocation agreement in a new tranche of contracts focused on Tropicana Field’s redevelopment and a new $1.37 billion ballpark. Many expected the legally binding document to mandate financial penalties if the Rays organization sought a divorce before its 30-year deal with the city concluded.

The mayoral administration believes money is not a sufficient deterrent for a project of this magnitude.

“Significant obligations are being incurred by the city and (Pinellas) County to make the stadium available for team home games, and any non-relocation default will constitute irreparable harm … for which monetary damages or other remedies at law will not be an adequate remedy,” the document states. “The city and county are each entitled to obtain injunctive relief prohibiting action, directly or indirectly, by TeamCo (a Rays subsidiary) that causes – or could be expected to cause – a non-relocation default …”

The mandatory injunction would legally bar the team from playing anywhere outside of St. Petersburg. It also prohibits the Rays from third-party negotiations that “could result” in relocation.

The contract disallows the TeamCo limited liability corporation (LLC) from dividing, dissolving, liquidating or taking any other “similar action.” The Rays and their subsidiaries must maintain headquarters at the stadium or elsewhere in the county.

Once signed, the team will waive “any right it may have to object or raise any defense” to the injunction. That includes a bankruptcy filing, reorganization or insolvency.

“TeamCo understands and acknowledges that … it is knowingly and intentionally relinquishing or limiting certain important rights and privileges to which it otherwise might be entitled,” the document states. “And that its relinquishment and limitation thereof is voluntary and fully informed.”

A new ballpark will anchor the Historic Gas Plant District’s transformation into a vibrant mixed-use community. City officials believe the stringent agreement will keep a “unique value” from abandoning the generational project.

The Rays can begin relocation negotiations after 25 years. However, they could not leave until after the 30-year term.

A rendering of a plaza adjacent to a $1.37 billion ballpark (right). Image provided.

A city memo notes that four agreements were excluded from the cache due to ongoing county and Major League Baseball (MLB) reviews and administrative negotiations. The latter will determine if the Rays could sell or transfer ownership rights.

Here are some additional agreement highlights the city council will discuss with administrators and team officials at a June 12 workshop:

Development funding

The stadium’s price tag is now $1.37 billion, with the Rays contributing $770 million and any additional costs. The city will provide $287.5 million for the entire district – financed through a bond issuance – and the county, which will own the roughly 17-acre site, will spend $312.5 million in tourism tax dollars.

The Rays must secure a $100 million MLB infrastructure loan and pay at least $10 million in project costs before the city will issue its bonds. Team owner Stuart Sternberg must prove he has “available liquid funds to satisfy” equity obligations.

Each subsidiary agent must also submit a “firm commitment letter” showing they can cover the remaining stadium contribution. The city will not release bond funding until the Rays pay at least $50 million in project costs.

Administrators will hold bond funds in escrow until the Rays and Hines development team meets those requirements. The city’s April debt service estimate is $683.8 million, about $20 million below an October 2023 forecast.

A site plan for the roughly 17-acre stadium site that will anchor the Historic Gas Plant District’s redevelopment. Screengrab.

Operating agreements

The Rays are responsible for all stadium maintenance, repair and operational costs. They must also establish a capital improvement fund, notify the city of every withdrawal and receive approval for any expense over $2 million.

The agreement mandates the Rays to maintain and operate the ballpark and surrounding land “consistent with standards for a premiere, first-class” facility. The team must secure over $200 million in property insurance.

The city will spend about $233,000 annually on traffic management over the 30-year term. The Rays will contribute $400,000 with a 5% annual increase and receive all stadium revenues.

Local benefits

In addition to previously stated job creation requirements and estimated economic impacts, the city can utilize the stadium for 12 days annually. The Rays will provide $10,000 for each event’s initial expenses. The city is responsible for all additional costs.

City officials will receive a suite, 10 field-level tickets and parking garage passes for all stadium events. They will also annually distribute 5,000 home game tickets to low-income families.

Construction site and Tropicana Field signage will promote St. Petersburg. At least one television and radio commercial before and during games will highlight the city, and the press box will feature municipally-branded items.

The team must dedicate at least one home game to celebrating city employees. That will include 2,000 additional complimentary tickets and on-field recognition.

The Rays will wear a St. Petersburg-branded uniform during one home game. They must also make an annual attempt to showcase the jerseys “for at least one road game per season.”







  1. Avatar

    Tom Tito

    June 2, 2024at4:13 pm

    A very bad deal gets worse. The Rays must think five council members are nothing more than rubber stamps. It seemed like two members wanted a concession to excuse an unpopular vote, but I guess not.

    Miami had a very similar push for a new stadium. After wastings hundreds of millions of dollars they are with the Rays at the bottom of fans attending games. We should learn from their mistake.

    Miami actually had a reason to move, they were exposed to the rain and sun. We have a location problem that won’t change with over a billion dollars wasted.

    And they gave up valuable naming rights. The Florida Marlins became the Miami Marlins. Getting our name on the jerseys only once a year is just pathetic.

  2. Avatar

    John Fitzgerald

    June 2, 2024at12:18 pm

    Why would the taxpayers want to
    build a baseball stadium ? If the Rays want a stadium let them build it on their dime and the dime of anyone that wants to
    Buy into this stadium ie Green Bay ownership.
    Let’s see the last 4 years earnings that the Rays have achieved.
    I will add that if this goes forward we should insist that all
    of the “ free” tickets go the needy not one ticked to any official or their friends or family.
    They can afford to buy their own tickets.

  3. Avatar

    Dale Jensen

    June 2, 2024at10:30 am

    Entirely the wrong location, needs to be in the Brandon, I-4 area. St. Pete is not a major league destination.

  4. Avatar

    Terry O'Hora

    June 1, 2024at9:19 pm

    Things in life that will never happen: Humans on Mars; flying cars; Trump being re-elected; Rays in St Pete when lease is up

  5. Avatar

    Kevin Rudolph

    June 1, 2024at7:25 pm

    This is a terrible deal. Tickets are going to be unaffordable as well. I drive from Lakeland now 6-7 games a year. That isn’t going to change and if tickets greatly increase I won’t go at all. The stadium needs to be by the I-4 and I-75:interchange. Or refurbish the Trop. Besides a bas location, the Trop is a great fan experience. Stu sell the team to locals.

  6. Avatar

    Pedro V

    June 1, 2024at5:08 pm

    So, you are telling me, there are 81 home games and the city can utilize the stadium for 12, what will happen to the remaining 272 days?

  7. Avatar


    June 1, 2024at7:46 am

    This whole thing is just wrong on so many levels and real citizens of the city will suffer in the long run.

  8. Avatar


    June 1, 2024at6:07 am

    Man. If I was the rays. I would run. Location isn’t any better. I doubt more fans from tampa travel over. It’s the same distance and time as before. I think the stadium need to stay in st. Pete. But it needs to be closer to tampa.

  9. Avatar

    Ryan Todd

    May 31, 2024at11:11 pm

    So, the Rays are making no concessions after all the pushback from City Council and residents? Has the Mayor attempted to influence the Rays to make any concessions to St. Pete, or is he too busy throwing out pitches and using his social media accounts to promote the Rays?

  10. Avatar

    Alan DeLisle

    May 31, 2024at4:16 pm

    Wow, it gets worst every day. Stay strong St Pete.

  11. Avatar


    May 31, 2024at3:40 pm

    Injunctive relief is a heavy lift. Why didn’t the City just copy the non-relocation terms from the existing use agreement? That’s kept the Rays from moving, or even looking, for the past 27 years. Without City approval and a modification, they couldn’t have even talked with Tampa or Montreal. If it ain’t broke, why “fix” it?

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