Tampa, FL -- Tampa's mayor and Hillsborough County's commission chair both thanked the City of St. Petersburg Friday for something they haven't even gotten yet. Permission -- to speak with the Tampa Bay Rays about moving the baseball team over the bay.
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But they admit there's a long road ahead of them, and frankly, they're having a hard time getting past step one.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commission Chair Ken Hagan emerged from a private meeting ready to talk with the Rays, but confessed they can't until the St. Pete city council gives them [the team] the okay to explore options beyond the city limits.
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"We're taking Mayor Foster at his word that the city council will sit down and formally adopt an agreement," said Hagan.
"Until that agreement is reached, there's nothing the chairman and I can do," added Buckhorn.
What both men say they can do now is start laying the groundwork by forming a committee to discuss keeping the Rays in Tampa Bay long term.
Presumably, they would move to a location in Hillsborough County, and likely in Tampa, where existing taxing districts make funding more feasible.
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But it's expensive.
"At the end of the day if we're not able to do it then we'll acknowledge we're not able to do it and everyone will go on to make other choices," said Buckhorn.
Tampa's mayor estimated the economic benefit to the region at about $200 million a year.
Tampa, he said, would offer the Rays the corporate support and population density St. Petersburg simply can't.
"I think the model for major league baseball over the last 10 years has been an urban stadium in the urban core," said Buckhorn.
When it comes to money, both men vowed no new taxes for a stadium.
The Rays said Buckhorn would have to shoulder a significant portion, although weren't specific about how much of the estimated $650 million that would be.
Both men said a combination of private enterprise and existing tax sources would likely cover a good chunk of the rest, assuming the team wants to stay here.
And that's the rub.
"We don't know that. Until we have the opportunity to formally sit down and have those discussions we won't know for certain," said Hagan.
That's why Hagan believes it's urgent that they get the conversation started now.
He's meeting with the Hillsborough County Attorney next Thursday to discuss what they can and can't discuss legally once that conversation starts.
As for a committee looking into all aspects of the issue? They hope it will be formed within the next couple of weeks.
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Follow 10 News Reporter Eric Glasser on twitter @ericglassertv