St. Petersburg- The Tampa Bay Rays may be looking elsewhere for a stadium, but according to city Mayor Bill Foster the venue should be in St. Petersburg. Foster released his statement to city council members at their meeting Thursday morning.
"The taxpaying residents of St. Petersburg and Pinellas have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in support of Major League Baseball and the Rays," Foster said, "And above all else, their interests will come first."
In a meeting Monday, team owner Stu Sternberg said in a statement that "the Rays will not be playing in Tropicana Field when our current lease expires in the year 2027." Sternberg and Foster haven't spoken since Monday's meeting.
But the contract with the Trop prohibits the team from talking with other cities or landowners about moving the team. Foster said the city is open to exploring venue options in downtown or the Gateway area, but not in Tampa.
"No sites outside of our geographic boundaries will be considered," Foster said.
However stadium locations in downtown do not include the once proposed waterfront stadium, and Foster said the only plausible downtown option is Tropicana Field.
All eight city council members agree that the use agreement binds the team to the city for the next 17 years. But the team's involvement with Major League Baseball on their hunt for a new stadium could throw an expensive wrench in the city's plans.
"We are not going into this naïve. We are not going to put out heads in the sand. We know the Rays and MLB will have things to say about this," Foster said.
At Thursday's meeting on the situation, City attorney John Wolfe said the city has a plan if that happens.
"The contract is in effect and it does provide for relief in the form of an injunction," Wolfe said.