St. Petersburg City Council Chair Ed Montanari is urging Mayor Rick Kriseman to continue stadium negotiations with the Tampa Bay Rays to keep the major league baseball team in the city.
Montanari, joined by St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce President Christopher Steinocher as well as fellow City Council members Darden Rice and Gina Driscoll, held a press conference Tuesday morning to discuss his stance.
“The time is now to start negotiating with the Rays,” Montanari said Tuesday. “We need to figure out baseball here in St. Petersburg before development of the Trop site.”
Montanari’s push to resume negotiations with the Rays comes after Kriseman paused talks on a stadium deal at the site in response to an ongoing lawsuit brought by several of the team’s minority owners against principal owner Stu Sternberg.
The suit calls for the removal of Sternberg, and if successful, would void potential deals involving the stadium, Kriseman said previously. Montanari, however, said negotiations should be able to continue unaffected by the suit and warned against moving forward with development before an agreement is reached.
“I don’t see it having any effect on negotiations, that’s a lawsuit from some minority partners, and it’s internal to the Rays,” Montanari said.
Kriseman has responded to Montanari’s comments, saying “we all want the Rays here,” but that “we cannot want that more than good sense allows.”
“Council member Ed Montanari, his allies on council, Mr. Steinocher and others are unfortunately elevating Stu Sternberg’s agenda at the expense of our residents, our progress on the Tropicana Field site and the City of St. Petersburg’s negotiation position,” Kriseman said in a statement. “Further negotiations with the Rays cannot continue until there is clarity related to the serious allegations against Mr. Sternberg and his role as principal owner.”
The baseball team has indicated a lack of interest in a stadium on the site, submitting a proposal declined by the city that would have given the Rays nearly 60% control over the site.
But, Montanari and others remain hopeful.
“I’m an eternal optimist, we can get this done,” Montanari said. “If they could do it back then, we could do it now, it’s easier now to keep a baseball team than it was 20 years ago to try to get a baseball team.”
Last Friday, the Mayor announced his selection for the final two development teams for the Tropicana site: Midtown Development and Sugar Hill Community Partners/JMA Ventures, which each have proposals for the site with and without a baseball stadium.
The ultimate development team the city selects will be tasked with redeveloping the historic 86-acre Trop site, which currently houses the stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays.
According to the city’s timeline, it will reach a development agreement with the final development team near September or October this year.