The back-and-forth regarding the redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site that started years ago continues to push into 2021.
So, to help you breakdown where things started and where they're going, here is a timeline of events dating back to 2008:
Spring 2008: The team moves forward with plans for a new stadium, which would require voter approval to build on the city’s waterfront. The sale of Tropicana Field land, redevelopment money, and $150 million from team owner Stu Sternberg would cover the $450 million price tag.
June 25, 2008: Rays back out of the plan to go to the ballot in the fall.
2009: St. Pete commissions “A Baseball Community” group, better known as the “ABC Coalition” of leaders from both sides of Tampa Bay to examine what’s best for the future of baseball in St. Pete. The group spends more than a year and concludes a new ballpark somewhere between the “Gateway” region of Mid-Pinellas and Downtown Tampa would be the best location to increase attendance at games.
June 21, 2010: Rays owner Stu Sternberg holds a press conference to deliver an ultimatum-- the Rays need permission to explore all-new stadium sites around Tampa Bay, or else they won't consider any new stadium sites around Tampa Bay. At the time, the team’s contract with St. Pete prohibited it from looking outside city limits.
November 2010: Discussion about a new Rays' stadium typically revolves around locations the team could play, but Noah Pransky writes the most important conversation is the one being ignored: how the stadium will be paid for.
Oct. 10, 2011: Minutes after the Tampa Bay Rays were sent home from the playoffs for the second straight year by the Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay owner Stuart Sternberg expressed his disappointment in the local support for the club, reiterating that the franchise's future in the area is in an untenable situation.
Oct. 1, 2014: Once again, the Hillsborough County Commission tried to prepare itself for a possible new Rays stadium, even though the city of St. Petersburg did not give the team, nor the county permission to interfere with its contract.
July 2015: Hillsborough County's lead negotiator, Ken Hagan, points to the Braves’ controversial deal outside Atlanta as a “template” for the Rays’ negotiations. The deal was cut behind-closed doors and cost Cobb Co. taxpayers more than $400 million.
January 2016: St. Petersburg finally grants the Rays permission to explore Tampa stadium sites, giving the team three years to give a final answer. Some critics in St. Pete voiced concern the agreement could weaken the city's otherwise ironclad contract through 2027 with the team.
October 2017: The Rays finish a third straight season with the lowest home attendance in MLB, as several Tampa Bay-area politicians and columnists suggest a new stadium can be built without public subsidies.
In response, 10Investigates put together a guide as to how those "not public subsidies" really are public subsidies.
November 2017: 10Investigates exposes how Commissioner Hagan may not be properly saving records regarding stadium negotiations.
Feb. 9, 2018: The Rays announced publicly its selection of an Ybor City site. But the financing of a stadium remains a giant mystery, with few public or private funds available for stadium construction.
July 9, 2018: If Hillsborough County's elected leaders and developers can't find hundreds of millions of dollars to get the Tampa Bay Rays to move to Ybor City, the team may find similar revenues simply by staying put in St. Pete.
Mayor Rick Kriseman told 10Investigates developers are anxious to redevelop the 86 acres on which Tropicana Field and its expansive parking lots currently sit, and the Rays get half the revenue as long as they are a tenant.
July 10, 2018: The Rays release renderings of its proposed $892 million Ybor City stadium. There is still no plan on how to pay for it.
Oct. 1, 2018: As the Tampa Bay Rays finish another season toward the bottom of the MLB attendance rankings, 10Investigates breaks the news the team is purchasing the Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer club, as well as the team's control of Al Lang Stadium on the St. Petersburg waterfront.
Nov. 6, 2018: Election Day brought two new commissioners to Hillsborough County's board. Based on previous stadium-related comments, the new commissioners may make it harder for the Rays to secure public financing in Hillsborough.
Nov. 16, 2018: Just days after Hillsborough commissioners were told there would be no new ballpark updates until after the team's Dec. 31 deadline to inform St. Petersburg of its future, the head of a local stadium booster group says he believes a deal will get done by the end of the year. He says federal subsidies may be the biggest piece of the funding pie.
Nov. 18, 2018: 10Investigates exposed how Commissioner Ken Hagan refused to turn over public records, detailing the location of the Ybor stadium, while developer Darryl Shaw (a Hagan campaign donor) was able to benefit from the inside information. 10Investigates later confirmed Shaw is one of the major investors in the Tampa Bay Times.
Nov. 26, 2018: Developer Darryl Shaw spoke to 10Investigates after viewers expressed concern the Tampa Bay Times wasn’t sufficiently scrutinizing the Ybor City stadium negotiations, of which Shaw is the primary landowner.
Dec. 4, 2018: Hillsborough County will shift oversight of the Rays discussion over to the Tampa Sports Authority, which could raise questions about the stadium-related profits one of its board members stands to make.
Dec. 5, 2018: The Tampa Bay Rays need to give St. Petersburg notice of its future plans by Dec. 31. Hillsborough County said it would need three or four more months.
Dec. 11, 2018: Rays' principal owner Stu Sternberg announced the MLB franchise would not be able to finalize plans to build a nearly $900 million stadium in Ybor City before the team's three-year window to find a new site expires.
Dec. 14, 2018: The attorney who was hired four years ago to bring the Rays, local governments, and private developers together to secure the Rays a new, long-term home in Tampa, tells 10 Tampa Bay’s sister station in Portland he is also representing the group trying to bring baseball to Portland.
Dec. 18, 2018: The Tampa Bay Rays have notified St. Petersburg that the team is officially terminating its negotiating window with Tampa.
Pham suggested a relocation from St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field could ignite the franchise either in a new stadium in the Tampa Bay area or in a new city.
Jan. 4, 2019: The Tampa Bay Rays announced major renovations to Tropicana Field, including the closure of the upper-deck level.
The reconfiguration of the ballpark will eliminate the upper-deck 300 level and decrease Tropicana Field’s capacity to an estimated 25,000-26,000 fans.
Jan. 25, 2019: The Tampa Bay Rays announced Tropicana Field will become the first cash-free sports venue in North America.
Fans will be able to use credit cards, gift cards, mobile payments, or Rays cards.
Feb. 22, 2019: La Presse reported a group of investors in Quebec want to become shareholders in the Tampa Bay Rays, which are currently owned by Stuart Sternberg. The plan calls for the Rays to split the season between Tampa Bay and Montreal.
April 4, 2019: Tampa Riverfront Sports released its idea for a new waterfront ballpark in West Tampa. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn called the proposal "dead on arrival" during the commission meeting.
June 20, 2019: MLB gave the Rays permission to explore becoming a two-city team. However, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said the Rays cannot explore playing in Montreal or any other city prior to 2027.
June 25, 2019: Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg announced his vision of the team splitting regular-season games between Tampa Bay and Montreal in 2024. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said the city wouldn't help fund a new stadium if the team splits time between two cities.
June 26, 2019: Canadian businessmen Stephen Bronfman and Pierre Boivin acknowledged St. Petersburg’s mayor would have to give the Tampa Bay Rays approval to begin pursuing the possibility of splitting home games between two cities.
July 23, 2019: This date marked the first time Tampa Bay Rays management and St. Petersburg city leaders had a formal conversation since the announcement the team was considering splitting its time between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal.
Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg and team president Brian Auld met with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin.
Sternberg said he did not ask for Kriseman's permission to explore splitting the team’s home games between two cities.
Aug. 7, 2019: Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan said he believes the county should still work on bringing the Tampa Bay Rays to Tampa even if the team decides to have a split season with Montreal. Hagan said the county is still considering the creation of an entertainment district in Ybor City.
Oct. 25, 2019: 10Investigates confirms the existence of an ongoing FBI probe into Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, investigating whether the commissioner broke the law in leveraging his considerable influence inside the county center to benefit developers he was connected to.
“I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about and no one from law enforcement has contacted me,” Hagan told 10 Tampa Bay at the time.
Dec. 4, 2019: Months after the Tampa Bay Rays threw a curveball at ongoing stadium negotiations, Mayor Rick Kriseman says the team’s proposal to ‘share’ the season between St. Pete and Montreal just struck out.
In a lengthy statement posted on Facebook, Kriseman says conversations about the Rays' immediate future are finished. The team can continue to explore other options for 2028 and beyond.
Dec. 11, 2019: The Rays were not ready to give up on the idea of playing home games in two cities in the same season. At the time, the Rays still believed the two-city plan was the best path forward.
"Both markets have their challenges, but together, we think it could be incredible," Rays President Matt Silverman said in an interview with MLB Network.
Jan. 30, 2020: The Tampa Bay Rays battle with the City of St. Pete was still brewing over the future of Tropicana Field as a battle over contract semantics kept either side from playing ball with each other.
Feb. 10, 2020: City of Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and the Rays meet to discuss a possible move across the bay.
After the meeting with Castor, the Rays released this statement:
“Today, we took a meaningful step toward securing the future of Rays baseball in Tampa Bay beyond 2027. We appreciate Mayor Castor and Commissioner Hagan’s leadership and look forward to a continued dialogue with City and County stakeholders. We remain focused on the Sister City concept and unwavering in our commitment to work in partnership with the community as this process moves forward.”
July 22, 2020: After having its season shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, team president Brian Auld and City of Tampa Mayor Jane Castor virtually discussed the future of baseball.
During their chat, Auld said the plan for where the team will play come 2028 was put on the back burner to focus on COVID-19 and the public's health.
July 27, 2020: St. Pete seeks "world-class" proposals to transform the 86-acre site and the city itself, for generations to come. Developers were asked to consider both plans with and without a stadium for the Rays.
Oct. 14, 2020: A post making the rounds on social media claimed that a brand new Rays stadium is breaking ground in Tampa in two years. But the city's mayor and Rays president shot down the post, calling its claims "news to me."
Dec. 9, 2020: The Tampa Bay Rays announced an affiliate shakeup as part of Major League Baseball's larger player development -- heading into 2021. The team inked a player development contract with the Charleston RiverDogs in South Carolina.
January 2021: The first month of the new year proved to have its ups and downs for the re-development of Tropicana Field. A proposal made to St. Pete City Council to bring in an "experienced consultant familiar with redevelopment endeavors of this scope," did not go as planned.
"Yesterday, this goal was unfortunately derailed, but we are not deterred," Mayor Rick Kriseman wrote in a Facebook post.
But it appears not too long after, things got back on track as the city unveiled a handful of proposals that gave Tampa Bay area residents a closer look at what the future may look like for the field site.
February 2021: During St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's final "State of the City" address he mentioned the Rays during his mention of the Tropicana Field site's future.
“The sooner we can provide jobs and affordable places to live to our residents, the better,” Kriseman said. “And the sooner the Tampa Bay Rays make their desires known, the better.”
April 7, 2021: The decision on what will become of the Tropicana Field site inches closer after the city narrowed down its batch of proposals to a final four. Each plan reimagines the 86-acre site with green spaces, retail locations, and housing. But as for baseball? It still may or may not be part of future plans.
April 15, 2021: The team’s leadership group, including owner Stuart Sternberg, proposed their vision for a new "world-class" eco-friendly outdoor stadium that would be used year-round to host the Rays baseball team, the Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer team and other sports throughout the year.
A push for being a two-city team still remains a topic of discussion under the latest proposal.
City council members signaled their support for considering the idea and are working to draft a resolution to express support in continuing talks with the team.
April 23, 2021: St. Petersburg's chapter of the NAACP gave its seal of approval to the JMA Ventures/Sugar Hill Partners proposal to redevelop Tropicana Field.
According to the civil rights organization, the company's proposal stood out as the best candidate to those who attended a virtual town hall held to address concerns over how the redevelopment will impact "our African American citizens for generations to come."
May 24, 2021: Minority owners of the Tampa Bay Rays file a lawsuit against the team's principal owner Stuart Sternberg for taking part in what they describe as "a relentless scheme to squeeze" them out.
A total of five minority owners are involved in the lawsuit against Sternberg who, as of 2020, owns 85 percent of the team, compared to their collective 9.6 percent.
The 24-page complaint, first uncovered by the Tampa Bay Times, takes several issues with Sternberg's actions since 2004, including what the minority owners say was his failure to adhere to his duties of honesty, loyalty and good faith.
May 28, 2021: The Rays' push for a stadium across Tampa Bay in Ybor City was revived when the team's president, Brian Auld, met with Hillsborough County commissioners this week to discuss the sister-city plan.
Auld hinted Ybor City could make a future Florida home for the team if it moved from St. Pete and began splitting the season with Montreal.
"We periodically provide updates to elected and community leaders on both sides of the bay. There are elected officials who have not yet had the opportunity to hear directly from us on the details of the Sister City baseball plan, and we are meeting with them to provide additional information. Our priority is to keep baseball in Tampa Bay for generations to come, and Ybor City, with its storied baseball past, would make an outstanding home for Tampa Bay's baseball future," he said.
June 1, 2021: St. Petersburg City Council Chair Ed Montanari, speaking to reporters, pushed for local leaders to do what they can to keep the Rays in St. Pete beyond their 2027 agreement.
Montanari also called for a pause to be put on the redevelopment plans so negotiating with the Rays can come first.
"We're ready to start negotiating with the Rays now," said Montanari, who wants the team to stay in Pinellas County.
July 13, 2021: David Samson, who has worked in baseball for 18 years and has a relationship with Rays owner Stu Sternberg, provided his professional opinion on the stadium drama.
"I say this with love because I have such great respect for them, such jealousy of the way they run their baseball organization, (but ownership) is not willing to be hated," Samson, who now runs a podcast called Nothing Personal on CBS Sports, said. "They're not willing to be unpopular. They're not willing to do the things that I was willing to do to get a deal done."
Samson played a pivotal, and yes controversial, role in getting a new ballpark in Miami. When it comes to the Rays sister city proposal, his opinion on the matter is very clear:
"Zero chance, zero," said Samson. "I don't care what Stu Sternberg says, and I've known him forever. Don't care. I don't care what Stephen Bronfman says. I've known him for years, too. There is zero chance that you will get two stadiums built, two TV deals, two sets of salespeople, then players to have two sets of homes, one in Tampa and one in Montreal. It's a nonstarter."
Oct. 26, 2021: A group of Canadian taxpayers had a strong message for the Tampa Bay Rays — and it was quite hard to miss.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation purchased a billboard along I-275 overlooking Tropicana Field that reads, "Dear Rays, Montreal won't pay for your new stadium. Sincerely, Taxpayers."
The group's argument is that a new sports stadium, especially for a part-time baseball team, would be a poor use of taxpayer dollars.
“The Rays need to know we don’t have hundreds of millions of bucks lying around,” said Renaud Brossard, Quebec Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. “Here’s the reality: A new ballpark ranks way below fixing roads, supporting hospitals and reducing the heavy tax burden on struggling families.”
According to the federation, a poll of Quebecers revealed 60-percent were opposed to subsidizing a baseball stadium in Montreal.
Dec. 2, 2021: St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman announced that Midtown Development has been selected to redevelop the 86-acre Tropicana Field site.
“They understand the collaborative nature of this partnership with our citizens, with the City of St. Petersburg, and perhaps with the Tampa Bay Rays,” St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman said during the announcement.
The project, which will likely take about 20 years to complete, is seen by many as an opportunity to make up for promises broken when the site was originally redeveloped in the 1980s.
Initial plans for the Midtown proposal included a retail space, a hotel, a conference center and green-certified housing, including at least 1,000 lower and moderate-income units. Midtown's proposal also said it would support $30 million for public parks and bring 16,000 to 20,000 construction jobs.
Dec. 14, 2021:Rumblings around the Tampa Bay Rays eyeing Pasco County as a site of a future training complex emerge. While the team declined to comment about any activity in Pasco County, several city and state leaders confirmed the news.
“I’m excited about the idea of the Tampa Bay Rays relocating their spring training to Pasco County & Florida’s Sports Coast and look forward to continuing the conversations," Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore told 10 Tampa Bay at the time.
Mayor Jane Castor's office echoed the sentiment, saying the mayor is "aware that [the] Rays are considering having a player development operation or facility in Pasco" but that she doesn't know any further details.
Jan. 20, 2022: Major League Baseball's Executive Council decides to end the possibility for the Tampa Bay Rays to move forward with its two-city season plan with Montreal.
“Today’s news is flat out deflating," Sternberg said.
After what the team's principal owner since 2005 describes as more than two years of support and encouragement by the MLB, the plan's rejection was hard to swallow.
“Recently it just sort of took a turn to the south and we don’t precisely know why. But I think at the end of the day it just wasn’t anything MLB was prepared to go forward with," Sternberg added.
Now, the Rays will need to focus on making sure they have a home come Opening Day in 2028. The urgent need for the Rays to have a "pretty good idea of where things are headed" mixed with the stadium fatigue Sternberg says both fans and staff are feeling means nothing is off the table for the team.
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