Krise-O-Meter

Protect St. Petersburg taxpayers in Rays negotiations

"Throughout the negotiating process I will ensure that our taxpayers are protected. While a sense of regionalism is important, especially in tough economic times, my primary duty will always be to the residents of St. Petersburg."


Updates

Kriseman's plan includes penalties if Rays leave St. Pete

Mayor Rick Kriseman promised voters during his 2013 campaign that St. Petersburg residents wouldn't be cheated no matter where the Tampa Bay Rays baseball club end up.

The Rays spent years seeking the right to look outside St. Petersburg city limits, which, at the time, was not allowed under the city's lease with the team. That changed in January 2016, when the city gave permission to the Rays to look for a new stadium home in Tampa Bay.

The agreement did not include a fee simply for looking — another campaign promise we're tracking — but, it included other fees that will kick in if the Rays decide to leave St. Petersburg. With this agreement intact, Kriseman argues he made good on his promise to protect taxpayers in Rays negotiations.

"I want to thank our city council for approving this important memorandum of understanding with the Tampa Bay Rays," Kriseman told the Tampa Bay Times in January 2016. "This agreement is good news for baseball fans, for our taxpayers, for the city of St. Petersburg, and for our entire region. I still believe the team's current site, reimagined and redeveloped, is the best place for a new stadium."

Kriseman's "memorandum of understanding" gives the team until Dec. 31, 2019, to decide on a new location for a stadium.

The Rays would then have to pay the city a fee depending on how long was left in the team's lease when they leave town, starting at $4 million a season until December 2018, dropping to $3 million a season from 2019 to 2022 and $2 million from 2023 through 2026. The team's current lease expires in 2027. (Given the Rays have yet to settle on a possible location, let alone figure out a way to pay to build a new stadium, the earliest the team could move is likely ahead of the 2021 season.)

The agreement also places all of the proceeds from development on the Tropicana Field site into an escrow account. The Rays and the city have agreed to split revenue derived from the development of the Trop site 50-50 if the team remains through the end of its lease in 2027, or chooses to build a new stadium there.

If the Rays leave, they have to forfeit their share. This is especially significant, since Tropicana Field's 85 acres is considered prime downtown real estate.

"Based on the draft of the master plan that was created with a stadium, you're talking about almost 900 million square feet of development and the right to 50 percent of that development," Kriseman said. "That's a lot of money, potentially, and so I think we have protected the taxpayers' interest."

It's important to note that the local governments have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the construction and maintenance of Tropicana Field. In 2008, the Tampa Bay Times estimated taxpayers would have invested $323 million into the site by the end of last year. The city won't recoup that much.

But Kriseman's plan to let the Rays search for a new stadium site outside of the city does contain guarantees that would protect St. Petersburg taxpayers should the Rays move before the Trop lease is set to expire.

We rate this Promise Kept.

Sources:

Interview, Mayor Rick Kriseman, Dec. 13, 2017

Email exchanges, Cindy Sheppard, City Council Administrative Officer, Dec. 14, 2017

Tampa Bay Times, St. Petersburg City Council votes 5-3 to let Rays search elsewhere for stadium home, Jan. 14, 206

Tampa Bay Times, Stu Sternberg: Top choices for Rays new stadium are unavailable, April 6, 2017

St. Petersburg Times, The tag on the Trop: $233M and climbing, March 9, 2008 TBO

Hillsborough: New Rays ballpark should go in Ybor City, Oct. 24, 2017

TBO, St. Pete mayor aims to entice Rays with latest stadium-search deal, Jan. 14, 2016


 

City council votes down deal requiring Rays to pay through 2026

While Mayor Rick Kriseman said he would let the Tampa Bay Rays baseball club look for a stadium outside of the city limits if that's what the team really wanted to do, he promised during his campaign that St. Petersburg residents wouldn't be cheated.

At first, it seemed like Kriseman was keeping this promise when he presented the City Council on Dec. 8, 2014, with a plan to allow the team to search for a new stadium site. The plan required the Rays to pay the city a fee if they moved. (It did not require the Rays to pay an exploratory fee to look, another campaign promise we're tracking.)

Kriseman's "memorandum of understanding" gave the team until Dec. 31, 2017, to decide on a new location for a stadium. The Rays would then have had to pay the city a fee depending on how long was left in the team's lease if they leave town, starting at $4 million a season until December 2018, dropping to $3 million a season from 2019 to 2022 and $2 million from 2023 through 2026. The team's current lease expires in 2027.

The Rays also would have to provide in-kind compensation of up to $1 million, possibly in the form of season tickets for marketing the city and signs in the new stadium touting St. Petersburg.

The deal fell through on Dec. 18, however, after questions from council member Karl Nurse about whether the city would be able to keep 100 percent of the profits from land leasing and redevelopment at the Tropicana Field site between the time the Rays started their search and began playing in a new stadium. The team's current agreement allows them to split such profits with the city, a plan Rays President Brian Auld wanted to keep in place, and Kriseman said could be negotiated later.

That displeased council, which voted down Kriseman's plan, 5-3. There currently is no timetable for creating a new agreement.

Kriseman's plan to let the Rays search for a new stadium site may have arguably protected St. Pete taxpayers, requiring the team to pay the city millions to get out of its lease. But the agreement was voted down. With some hard feelings complicating discussions at the moment, there's currently no other contract being drafted by the city or the team.

Still, we suspect we haven't heard the last about negotiations between the city and the Rays. In the meantime, we rate this promise Stalled.

Sources:

Tampa Bay Times, "Rays and Kriseman reach agreement to allow Hillsborough stadium search," Dec. 8, 2014

Tampa Bay Times, "Kriseman-Rays stadium deal is in the works, but meets complications," Dec. 9, 2014

Tampa Bay Times, "Sternberg calls deal fair, says with no new stadium team likely to be sold, moved," Dec. 9, 2014

Tampa Bay Times, "Vote on Rays stadium deal is delayed a week," Dec. 10, 2014

Tampa Bay Times, "No rubber stamp from City Council for St. Petersburg's deal with Rays," Dec. 17, 2014

Tampa Bay Times, "St. Petersburg City Council rejects Rays stadium search deal," Dec. 18, 2014

Tampa Bay Times, "Rays' president strikes cooperative tone on stadium deal with St. Petersburg," Dec. 19, 2014