Foster to let Rays look at stadium sites in Tampa - WFLA News Channel 8

Foster to let Rays look at stadium sites in Tampa

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St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster addresses the media over the latest in the stadium saga St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster addresses the media over the latest in the stadium saga

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster said "it was not my intention to drop the bomb" by revealing he is willing to let the Tampa Bay Rays discuss the possibility of moving to Tampa to play in a new stadium there.

"Sometimes I channel Chris Christy and things just come out," Foster said.

Foster told reporters Tuesday "my position hasn't changed in protecting the interest of the taxpayers....we've really moved past 2027."

For months now Foster has taken a hard line on not allowing any discussions about moving the team as long as the Rays are committed by contract to paying at Tropicana Field through 2027.

But Foster says his perspective has widened in scope after months of private discussions with Stu Sternberg, owner of the team. "My objective is to keep the Rays in Tampa Bay for years to come," said Foster.

Foster said he is now "trying to set the table" for what happens after the city's contract with the Rays expires.

"They (the Rays) insist on looking at the region and I don't begrudge them that," Foster said.

The mayor said the fact that attendance at Rays game is second worst in Major League Baseball while the team ranks fourth in the standings is "beyond explanation."

He acknowledged that without an increase in attendance the team is like to move to another part of the country altogether to stay viable.

Foster said his negotiations to allow the Rays to explore other options in the Tampa Bay region are still in the infancy stage.

"People shouldn't get too excited about this," Foster said. "We're having discussions, we're talking." Foster said any deal to let the Rays explore a regional move would have to win the support of the St. Petersburg City Council.

Foster said he is working now to make sure the team stays in the region until 2048 and beyond so that his grand kids can enjoy the team.

"Right now we're discussing the what if's," Foster said.

In a statement Tuesday afternoon Mayor Bob Buckhorn said, "It is time we broke the stalemate, and I look forward to the opportunity for the Rays to explore all options. Commissioner Hagan and I have agreed throughout this process that the most important thing is for them to stay in Tampa Bay."

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