In one of the bigger developments in the slow-motion, conjecture-filled Rays stadium saga, the city of St. Pete is allowing the Tampa Bay Rays to explore potential stadium sites in Tampa.
But it'll cost them.
According to an unsigned memorandum of understanding between the city and the team, if the team leaves the Trop ahead of their current contract's 2027 expiration, the Rays will have to pay $4 million for each year it doesn't play under the dome through 2018, $3 million between 2019 and 2022, and $2 million a year through the end of 2026.
Mayor Rick Kriseman will give a press conference Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the stadium to discuss the decision. Rays president Brian Auld will join him at the podium.
The Tampa Bay Times is reporting that the mayor would like to ask City Council to discuss the agreement at its Thursday meeting (we will keep you posted on what happens).
The news comes after extensive speculation that things were headed in this direction. The team has been hinting — sometimes not so subtly — at a possible premature departure from the Trop for years, citing the facility's outdated design and low attendance.