The news that the Tampa Bay Rays may finally turn to a new chapter — reportedly landing on a deal for a new stadium in St. Petersburg — emerged from silence.
Over the team’s 16 years of seeking a new stadium, one proposal after another had been preceded by whispers of what they contained, only for negotiations to fall apart.
This time, though, they came together with barely a hint of acrimony, nor any attempt to float specific terms in public. With word coming down Monday that an announcement is in the offing, with details to be made public Tuesday, leaders on both sides of Tampa Bay reacted as though an agreement is within reach.
In Pinellas County, the mood among elected officials was optimistic, with caveats — several said they still didn’t know the details of the deal on the table and emphasized that there’s plenty of work left to do before a plan is set in stone.
Reactions were more mixed on the other side of Tampa Bay, with some disappointed that efforts to bring the Rays to Tampa had apparently failed and others saying they were pleased that the team would be staying in the region.
But none denied that this was a big deal. After a decade and a half of stadium proposals and negotiations, this is the closest anyone has gotten to securing the future of baseball in Tampa Bay. Pinellas County Commission chairperson Janet Long put it bluntly: “It’s about damn time, don’t you think?”
That sort of sentiment, County Commissioner Brian Scott said, could apply to the summer, or the last year, or the last 15. If there was ever a time to get a deal done, he and several others said, it was now, with the Rays’ lease on Tropicana Field set to expire after 2027.
“Projects or deals, however you want to look at it, tend to take the time that you give them, and the time’s about up,” Scott said. “I think the parties have been kind of dancing around the issue for the better part of a decade, if not more, but nothing gets people together like a deadline.”
And though those involved in negotiations hadn’t publicized a specific deadline for getting a deal on the table, they ultimately made good on St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch’s statements that they were on track to get one done this summer, with Monday’s news coming five days before the autumnal equinox.
At times, officials noted, it seemed one might get done sooner. Scott recalled telling a reporter in the spring that he expected news within a few weeks. County Commissioner Kathleen Peters said there were times she thought a deal was done, only to have negotiations carry on.
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