Amid ongoing talks on the future of Major League Baseball in St. Petersburg, lawmakers will spend some time this month looking back at the history of baseball in the city.
The City Council this month will consider an ordinance renaming a part of the northern end of Walter Fuller Park as “Baseball City-St. Petersburg.” The name would recognize the complex’s long baseball history and tradition, which dates back to more than 50 years and includes spring training stints at the site by the New York Mets, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Tampa Bay Rays.
The City Council also will vote on a 20-year agreement with St. Petersburg Baseball Commission Inc. to manage and operate the baseball complex. The nonprofit commission has run the complex since 2009 under a series of three-year contracts, but voters approved the longer agreement at the November 2017 election.
Approval of the agreement would require at least five members of the City Council to waive a requirement for competitive bids, according to a memo from city administrators to the council.
The new agreement changes the amounts the city pays St. Petersburg Baseball Commission for operational support and capital improvements.
The city currently pays the commission $120,000 a year in operational support and has agreed to fund up to $100,000 a year in capital improvements.
Under the new agreement, the city would pay $161,000 in operational support (years 1-7); $136,000 (years 8-14); and $111,000 (years 15-20). The city would fund $100,000 in capital improvements (years 1-7); $125,000 (years 8-14); and $150,000 (years 15-20).
The new agreement allows the city to terminate the deal if the Rays decide to use the complex for spring training. The complex currently hosts high school and college games.
As part of the new 20-year agreement, the commission asked for the name change, to help identify the complex as a baseball destination in St. Petersburg. In the past it’s been known as Payson Field Complex (New York Mets); Busch Complex (St. Louis Cardinals); and the Raymond A. Naimoli Complex (Tampa Bay Rays). More recently, it’s been called the Walter Fuller Baseball Complex.
Both measures will come before the City Council on Thursday. Council members are expected to vote on the new operating agreement at Thursday’s meeting, but they’ll wait two weeks to vote on the ordinance to rename the complex, after a public hearing set for Sept. 19.
The measure comes as the Rays consider their future in St. Petersburg. The Rays said earlier this year they were exploring the idea of splitting the team’s season between St. Petersburg and Montreal. Mayor Rick Kriseman and the Rays owners and leaders have held at least three closed-door meetings since then.