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St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster questions Major League Baseball's commitment to Tampa Bay

7:57 PM, Sep 5, 2013   |    comments
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Video: Foster questions MLB's commitment to Tampa Bay

St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster
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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- Mayor Bill Foster, in a memo to City Council this week, says he doesn't believe Major League Baseball has any intention of assisting the city and Tampa Bay Rays in reaching a mutually-beneficial solution to building a new stadium. 

In fact, Foster also says he doesn't think MLB seems "interested in a cooperative effort to keep the Rays in the Tampa Bay region for the long term."

SEE ALSO: Negotiations between city, Rays breaking down?
TIMELINE: 10 News coverage of the Rays Stadium Saga

The Rays have a contract to play in Tropicana Field through the 2027 season. But the Rays' owners have indicated they want a new home before then.

The Rays are currently averaging 18,719 fans per home game, the worst in MLB. That's down 1,229 fans per game from last season.

In response to Foster's memo, the Rays issued this statement on Thursday:

"The Rays organization is singularly focused on the excitement of a pennant race and the opportunity to reach the post season.  It is unfortunate and unproductive in so many ways that Mayor Foster chose now to publicly describe our conversations.  We have remained silent about the details of our discussions and we will have no further comment today."

Below is the complete memo Foster sent on Wednesday to City Council members:

In light of recent media reports pertaining to my conversations with the Rays, and the potential intervention by the Commissioner of Baseball, this memorandum will serve to update Council on the status of these discussions.

I am now, and always have been, committed to three things when it comes to the Rays: protecting the public's significant financial investment in bringing Major League Baseball to St. Petersburg, preserving the integrity of the City's bargained for contract with the Rays, and supporting the team. But rather than focus exclusively on the Rays' contractual commitment to play their home games at Tropicana Field through the 2027 season, I began to explore potential avenues of keeping the Rays in the Tampa Bay region for generations to come.  With that long term goal in mind, I opened the lines of communication with Mr. Sternberg and the Rays organization to consider options that would allow the Rays to search for future stadium sites in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, while at the same time protecting the public's financial investment and the City's contractual rights.  Both the City and Rays embarked upon these discussions in good faith, with open minds and an eye toward compromise. Over the last several months, we have engaged in hours of telephone conversations and met on numerous occasions. In fact, I believe our last meeting with the Rays, which was only days before the August 15, 2013 Major League Baseball owner's meeting at which Commissioner Selig threatened that Major League Baseball may "intervene", was our most productive to date.

It has become apparent to me that Major League Baseball has no intention of assisting the City and Rays in reaching a mutually beneficial solution.  Nor does Major League Baseball seem interested in a cooperative effort to keep the Rays in the Tampa Bay region for the long term. Major League Baseball's sole motivation, and consequently Commissioner Selig's only measure of success in this matter, appears to be accomplishing Major League Baseball's agenda. Major League Baseball's failure to consider all of the parties' interests, not just the interests of Major League Baseball and team owners who contribute to revenue sharing, is the real impediment to progress.

While I remain willing to continue discussions with the Rays and Major League Baseball to attempt to identify an outcome that is equitable to all parties and keeps the team in the Tampa Bay region for generations, I cannot and will not support an outcome that is primarily at the public's expense. Rather than being a hindrance, Major League Baseball can become part of the solution if Commissioner Selig acknowledges that the public's investment in bringing Major League Baseball to St. Petersburg and the contractual commitments made by the Rays cannot be cast aside as trivial and undeserving of any consideration. If Major League Baseball would start to recognize the public's investment in baseball and the Rays' contractual commitments to the City as having even a fraction of the value of a team's investment in a star player and the player's corresponding contractual commitment to his team, I believe we could make real progress that benefits the entire Tampa Bay region.

We will continue our discussions with the Rays, and regardless of what transpires off the field, I encourage everyone to focus our attention on the field by rallying to support our home team. Go Rays!

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