A Monday meeting between the Tampa Bay Rays, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan is being described by the Rays as a “meaningful step” towards securing the Rays’ future in the Tampa-St. Peterburg area after 2027.
“We appreciate Mayor Castor and Commissioner Hagan’s leadership and look forward to a continued dialogue with City and County stakeholders. We remain focused on the Sister City concept and unwavering in our commitment to work in partnership with the community as this process moves forward,” a statement from the Rays said.
The Rays’ Sister City concept, initially proposed last year, would split the team’s season between the Tampa-St. Pete area and Montreal. It comes amid plans by the city of St. Petersburg to redevelop the 86-acre Tropicana Field site in St. Petersburg, where the Rays currently play their home games under a lease that runs through the 2027 baseball season. The Trop site redevelopment, either with or without a baseball stadium, is viewed as a major economic development project that could bring high-skill, high-wage jobs to St. Petersburg.
In December, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman rejected the idea of exploring a split season prior to the end of 2027. He also has said he would not support using public funds to build a stadium for a part-time team, although some St. Petersburg City Council members say they are open to considering a split season for the Tampa Bay Rays.
As of Tuesday morning, Kriseman had not issued a public comment on the Monday meeting between the Rays and Castor.
The Rays issued a statement on Twitter after the meeting with Castor and Hagan.
In response to the Tampa Bay Rays meeting with officials from the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County this afternoon, the Rays have issued the following statement. pic.twitter.com/LNYYgeL9rR
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) February 10, 2020
The Rays explored a Ybor City location for a new baseball stadium in 2018, but scrapped that plan after Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said it lacked details.
Since then, the Rays have proposed the Sister City concept, which Manfred said is the best way to keep the Rays in the Tampa Bay area after the 2027 season.
Stuart Sternberg, the Rays’ principal owner, has said that his sole focus was trying to make the Sister City concept work. Hillsborough County seems more receptive to that than St. Petersburg, the Rays’ statement said.
“I’m more excited about the plan now than I was a month ago,” Sternberg said during the December Winter Meetings in San Diego. “I’m more excited than I was a month before that, and I’m more excited than when we made the announcement in June. Most people we’ve spoken to in small gatherings and stuff like that, they get what we’re trying to do.”