PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – One day after the surprise announcement that Hillsborough leaders have cobbled together a site for a new Tampa Bay Rays stadium in Tampa, Pinellas leaders are hoping for the best, but are braced for the worst.
“I’m sure they’re happy to have a site identified,” said Pinellas Commission Chair Janet Long. “But, whether it turns out to be real is another question.”
St. Pete Mayor Rick Krisemen negotiated a deal some time ago that allowed the Rays to shop around in Hillsborough for new stadium locations. If the Rays do leave Tropicana Field before the current lease ends in 2027, the team will have to pay millions to St. Petersburg and give up its 50 percent share of development rights at the Trop site.
That could be a real windfall for St. Petersburg and quite a consolation prize for losing the team to Tampa.
“Will we survive if the team leaves,” Kriseman said. “Of course, we’ll have 86 acres to develop instead of 70. St. Pete’s a great city.
Kriseman and Long both tell us Hillsborough has a lot of catching up to do before the proposed stadium site near Ybor City becomes a viable option for the Rays. There are parking and finance issues and there are still uncommitted parcels that need to be wrapped into the footprint of the proposed Tampa stadium.
But if it comes to that, both Pinellas leaders insist they will support the team’s decision to cross Tampa Bay.
”If they [the Rays] ultimately make the decision St. Pete is not the best site and Tampa is, then we need to get behind their effort and support it, because we want the team to be successful in the region,” Kriseman said.
“I don’t think that their leaving Pinellas County will be catastrophic,” said Long. “It will be very sad, [but] as long as they stay in the region I will be very happy…and life will go on.”
But before any of that happens, there are a lot of bridges to cross.
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