City and team officials agreed, he wrote, to “abide by the existing use agreement” that would keep the team at Tropicana Field through the 2027 season, when it would be free to play games elsewhere.
The team declined Kriseman’s offer to sign a memorandum of understanding that would have signaled the Rays’ desire to build a new stadium in the region, including the city of Tampa, surrounding Hillsborough County and the city of St. Petersburg.
“As I stated earlier this year, while the City of St. Petersburg is willing to discuss contributing to the funding for a new stadium for a full-time team here in St. Petersburg, we will not contribute public dollars to construct a stadium for a part-time team,” Kriseman wrote. “As such, with no imminent discussions pending regarding a new stadium for a full-time team, we will begin to evaluate our next steps in redeveloping at least parts of the site following additional public engagement.”
Tampa Bay baseball fans have long dealt with one of Major League Baseball’s most inconvenient and underwhelming home-field experiences. The domed Tropicana Field has earned a reputation as a drab ballpark in a far-flung locale.
But negotiations over a new, partially taxpayer-funded stadium concluded in December without a deal. Hillsborough County, the site of the proposed new stadium, offered to pay half the cost, an estimated $475 million, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The Rays were not yet willing to commit to paying the same amount.
That led the Rays to consider the “shared city” plan, even as the team’s contract with St. Petersburg forbade them from negotiating with other jurisdictions. An ownership group in Montreal lobbied MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred for its own expansion team to replace the Expos, which relocated to Washington in 2005.
Still, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg called the idea “amazing,” adding, “Every turn, every what-if, what-if, what-if, only leads to more opportunity, more fandom, more joys.”
Kriseman’s memo to the city council ended that possibility, leaving the sides at another impasse as the clock ticks toward Opening Day 2028, when the Rays surely will abandon Tropicana Field.
MLB has a number of active expansion bids in the South, including in Raleigh, N.C., and Orlando, where Pat Williams, co-founder of the NBA’s Orlando Magic, has already pitched the team name “Orlando Dreamers.”
Kriseman wrote to legislators that he was still optimistic, though, that the team would remain in the Tampa Bay area.
“Given St. Pete’s rich history with baseball and the trajectory of our city,” he said, “I remain confident that we will be rooting for the Tampa Bay Rays for generations to come.”