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The Rays throw another curveball, but St. Pete's mayor is playing hardball

The latest fight between the team and the city is over redeveloping the area surrounding Tropicana Field.
Credit: AP
Worker replace the infield dirt at Tropicana Field Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, in St. Petersburg, Fla., before the start of the 2016 Tampa Bay Rays season. Rays pitchers and catcher report for spring training in Port Charlotte, Fla., on Feb. 18. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — As the Tampa Bay Rays ship off to spring training in Port Charlotte, their battle with the City of St. Pete over the future of Tropicana Field is still brewing.

First – a quick game of catch (up).

The Rays have made it crystal clear they want a way out of their Trop contract, but Mayor Kriseman is playing hardball.

In December, the team floated a split-season plan which would bring baseball to Montreal for half the season.

The city simply won’t sign off on that.

Kriseman said St. Pete’s baseball fans deserve a full-time team, and under the current contract, he’s got the team by the baseballs.

RELATED: The Rays aren't splitting their season between St. Pete and Montreal – Now what?

Credit: AP
Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow delivers a pitch to a Houston Astros batter during the first inning of Game 5 of a baseball American League Division Series in Houston, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

But – mixing metaphors – the Rays believe they have an ace up their sleeve.

St. Pete is working on a master plan to redevelop the land surrounding Tropicana Field, and the Tampa Bay Times reports, the team told City Council it plans to throw a wrench in the works.

That means holding the city to every word of the contract that’s keeping them at the Trop by arguing that construction would get in the way at game time.

“They could certainly delay it for years if they wanted to,” city attorney John Wolfe told the Times in June 2019.

Mayor Kriseman doesn’t see it that way. He tweeted on Thursday:

We are certain that there is development which could occur on the Tropicana Field site that would not impair the Rays’ ability to play games and have fans attend those games – development that would not be piecemealed, but be the beginning of a master plan for the site. And think about this – The City of St. Petersburg’s interest in the land lasts forever. The Rays’ interest is for seven more years. In 2028, the Rays get zero dollars from any redevelopment that occurs on the land. As such, the clock is ticking. Not for us, but for the Rays.

The Rays responded on Twitter to a St. Petersburg City Council meeting where the situation was discussed.

"Time is of the essence, and we appreciate the Council's time and attention to this matter. Our focus is the Sister City concept, and we will work with all those who believe it is an idea that merits exploration and consideration." 

RELATED: St. Pete Mayor: Rays can't split season with Montreal

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