The showdown over the Rays' stadium woes doesn't seem to be going anywhere, thanks in large part to mayor Bill Foster.
It's a well-known fact at this point that the Rays are looking to somehow get out of Tropicana Field and build a new ballpark in downtown Tampa. But as the Rays have a lease with St. Petersburg until 2027, they need to get permission from the city before doing so. The city doesn't want them to leave, though, as the Rays bring in revenue and jobs to the city...and they'd be losing yet another thing to Tampa. Talk about a saga.
In recent developments, a few weeks ago, St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster appeared before the city council to discuss his "plan" for keeping the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Pete. The city council meeting ended being rather baffling, as Foster kept alluding to this mysterious plan that he had, but he claimed he couldn't share specific details with the public. He claimed to have already discussed his plan with the city council, but later the vast majority of the council claimed to have no idea what he was talking about.
So to counter these claims and clear the air, Foster wrote a letter to the St. Petersburg Times, which was published in Wednesday's paper. In it, he outlines his stance quite clearly:
My plan consists of three strategic elements: 1) ensuring that the legal integrity of the city's agreement with the Rays is not compromised; 2) supporting private sector efforts to retain the Rays as a regional asset without compromising the city's agreement with the Rays; and 3) continuing to support and promote the Rays as a professional sports franchise in west-central Florida.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Foster still claims he won't let the Rays break their lease -- and he won't let them explore options outside of St. Pete -- but at least he's willing to let them talk with private businesses about alternative options and negotiations.
And Foster's words may finally be getting some people on the St. Pete city council a bit anxious and frustrated:
Council member Karl Nurse said the letter helped clarify some, if not all, of his questions. As to private-sector efforts under way, more information needs to be made public, he said.
"The letter's level of detail wasn't that much," Nurse said. "But maybe it will force us to put together a plan that will give us a fighting chance to keep them."
At this point, it doesn't look there are going to be any major news items surrounding the stadium talk anytime soon. The Rays and Foster are in a stalemate, and both are going to keep trying to do their work silently. One side has to crack sooner or later, but we could be in for a long wait.