ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - Bill Foster wasn't the only winner in Tuesday's election in St. Petersburg. The Tampa Bay Rays, eager to get out of downtown because they say it's too far from the center of the area's population, were probably celebrating like they had won a title too.
Foster said he was willing to act as the lead negotiator in finding a long-term solution for keeping the Rays in St. Petersburg. That could possibly mean a move to North St. Pete or Pinellas County's "Gateway" region near the Howard-Frankland Bridge.
Kathleen Ford, who lost the election by about five-and-a-half percentage points, had said she'd force the Rays to respect their current agreement, which has them playing at Tropicana Field until 2027. She said any change to the use agreement would have to be negotiated by the city council.
Ford pledged to continue her anti-stadium advocacy with the group "Preserve Our Wallets and Waterfront."
And while the Foster win may mean smoother negotiations with the city, the Rays are hardly guaranteed anything.
"We're not going to build any stadiums anytime soon," Foster said. "We will respect the Rays and talk to them, but we've got to tackle some of those pressing issues (first)."
Foster told 10 Connects the most important issues facing the city were public safety and the budget.
St. Petersburg will finish paying off the Tropicana Field bonds in the middle of next decade, but Foster said any use of taxpayer funds would have to be approved by a voter referendum. Previous polls have indicated there is not enough support in the city to approve a referendum. However, a referendum may not be necessary if Foster changes his mind.
His term will run from January 2010 to January 2014 and he will have the option to run for one more four-year term.
Previous Rays' stadium coverage here: http://www.wtsp.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=115999
Follow 10 Connects reporter Noah Pransky on Twitter at www.twitter.com/noahpransky or Facebook at www.facebook.com/noahpransky.