ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman and Tampa Bay Rays President Matt Silverman met Friday afternoon for a resumption of talks aimed at resolving the long-running deadlock regarding the Rays desire to leave Tropicana Field.
Kriseman characterized the talks as “very productive” but did not reveal details of the discussion.
The Rays are under contract to play at the Trop through 2027 but say they need to explore sites for a new stadium because of low attendances at the city-owned facility. The city has so far refused, saying it has to protect the investment of taxpayers who paid millions of dollars to bring Major League Baseball to St. Petersburg.
“I think we made good progress today,” Kriseman said. “We're having very open and honest dialogue with each other.”
The hourlong unannounced meeting, the second Kriseman has had with the team since taking office in January, was at the Trop ahead of the Rays' game against the Texas Rangers.
Kriseman said both sides have agreed to keep talks confidential. Talks in 2013 between the Rays and former Mayor Bill Foster stalled after city leaders claimed that Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig had instructed the Rays not to offer the city any compensation if it broke its contract.
“Both sides have agreed we are going to keep our conversations in confidence and private so we can continue to have a solid element of trust in each other, so we can make progress,” Kriseman said.
Despite a winning team in recent years, the Rays' average attendance of just more than 18,000 was the lowest in the league in 2013.
Principal owner Stuart Sternberg has suggested several times in recent years that baseball's other 29 owners were growing restless with the Rays' lingering stadium problem. Richer teams such as the New York Yankees have to subsidize less profitable teams, including the Rays, through revenue-sharing payments.
This year the team and the city combined for more than $1 million in stadium improvements, including a 360-degree walkway that means fans for the first time can walk around the field without using the concourse.
Kriseman said more talks will be scheduled in the near future. He said his priority still is to try to keep the Rays in St. Petersburg and to protect the taxpayer's investment.\
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