It’s two strikes for the Tampa Bay Rays’ plans to leave Tropicana Field for a new ballpark.
The Rays said today the proposal to build a stadium in Ybor City was off the table, at least for now, and the team would regroup and try to figure out how it can build a home in Tampa Bay.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, who negotiated a deal with the Rays three years ago that let them look for other sites for a ballpark, said he now is prepared to talk to the Rays about what happens next.
“The Memorandum of Understanding we struck with the Tampa Bay Rays worked as intended,” Kriseman said at a City Hall news conference Tuesday afternoon. “The organization was given three years to explore future stadium sites throughout our region. Today I stand ready, if asked, to continue the conversation related to the organization’s future in St. Pete.”
The Rays announcement followed a letter from Robert Manfred Jr., commissioner of Major League Baseball, that said the framework for a deal unveiled last week by Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill lacked the specific details needed to understand the proposal.
“We’re three years deep into a process and we’re at a point where the framework was short on specifics and short on certainties that we could bank on in terms of progressing to the next level to negotiate a specific financing plan,” Matt Silverman, Rays president, said during a conference call with news reporters.
The MOU between the Rays and the City of St. Petersburg allowed the team to look for stadium sites in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties and gave the team a deadline of Dec. 31, 2018 to make a decision and notify the city. The Rays won’t be seeking an extension of that MOU, Brian Auld, president of the team, said during the conference call.
“I called Mayor Kriseman this morning to let him know that we were in receipt of the letter from Commissioner Manford and that we would be having a press conference later today,” Auld said. “Beyond that the mayor and the Rays speak on a regular basis with all kinds of issues ongoing with the city, but have not had any other communications regarding our discussions with Hillsborough County.”
The team remains committed to the Tampa Bay area and continues to work to find a way to build a new ballpark, Silverman said.
“We took a swing at it in 2007, trying to build a ballpark down on the waterfront at Al Lang. We’ve obviously taken another big swing at it with the Ybor plans and we’ll keep at it to find a way to build a ballpark and to make sure that the Rays are a permanent fixture in Tampa Bay and something that Tampa Bay is proud of,” Silverman said.