St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman will resume negotiations with the Tampa Bay Rays after halting discussions in response to a lawsuit against principal owner Stu Sternberg.
In an op-ed for the Tampa Bay Times, Kriseman said he will continue talks with the baseball team, and said his initial decision to stop negotiations stemmed from advise from city attorney Jackie Kovilaritch.
Kovilaritch advised Kriseman to halt negotiations while her office investigated whether the allegations raised in the lawsuit amounted to a violation of the team’s Tropicana Field lease with the city. But, on Wednesday, the office received a sworn statement from Rays General Council John Higgins, which helped alleviate concerns.
“It was for this reason that our city attorney advised that I refrain from negotiating with the team until this review could be conducted, and I am pleased that recent information shared with us led to the determination that the city is not currently aware of a default of the use agreement,” Kriseman wrote in the op-ed. “I have reached out to the leadership of the Tampa Bay Rays to restart negotiations with the city and county.”
In late May, in an interview with the JP Peterson Radio Show, the Mayor said he must halt negotiations with the team in response to a recently filed lawsuit brought by a group of Rays minority owners against Sternberg. The suit calls for Sternberg’s removal, and if successful, would void potential deals involving the stadium, Kriseman said previously.
After the Mayor announced a halt to negotiations, St. Pete City Council Chair Ed Montanari along with members Darden Rice and Gina Driscoll, called on Kriseman to continue stadium negotiations with the Rays to keep the Major League Baseball team in the city.
Last Thursday, the Council voted 5-3 against scheduling presentations for the final two Trop developers, compliant with a previous resolution seeking to bring the Trop project to a halt until the city and Rays have reached an agreement.
Kriseman, however, has been vocal in his support of continuing the process to select the final development team and even starting construction without final word from the Rays.
“The future is now, which is why so many in our community are disappointed with the City Council’s refusal to move forward with redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site,” Kriseman wrote in the op-ed. “It is not yet clear whether a new stadium will be included in such redevelopment. But what is clear is that jobs, housing, green space, and opportunity will be, and space for a new stadium can ultimately be set aside — or not.”