St Pete council rejects deal with Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) The St. Petersburg City Council rejected a deal between the Rays and the city's mayor that would have allowed the team to search for new stadium sites on both sides of Tampa Bay.

The council voted 5-3 Thursday to reject a proposed agreement reached this month by Mayor Rick Kriseman.

''It is disappointing that the St. Petersburg City Council rejected the progress and certainty that this agreement provided,'' Kriseman said in a statement. ''St. Petersburg - and the entire Tampa Bay region - stands to lose our Major League Baseball team and receive nothing in return. This is an unfortunate outcome for St. Petersburg's taxpayers and every fan of the Rays.''

The team has played since its inception in Pinellas County at what now is called Tropicana Field. The agreement would have allowed the Rays to evaluate sites on the east side of the bay in Hillsborough County, where Tampa is located. The Rays have been able to consider only alternative sites in St. Petersburg and surrounding Pinellas County.

The deal also would have established how much the Rays would have had to pay the city if they left their current home before their Tropicana Field lease expires in 2027. Payments to escape the remainder of the lease would have started with $4 million per season through 2018. They would have decreased to $3 million per year from 2019-22 and $2 million from 2023-26.

Councilmembers who voted against the deal expressed concern during Thursday's meeting that the payments wouldn't offset the economic impact of losing the team.

The Rays released a statement from President Brian Auld shortly after the vote.

''We are obviously disappointed with the city council's decision today,'' Auld said. ''Our goal was to begin a collaborative, exploratory process in our region to determine the best location for a next generation ballpark. The council has instead decided that the status quo is what is in the best interest of the citizens of St. Petersburg.''

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