Thanks to a vote from the St. Petersburg city council, the Tampa Bay Rays could have a legitimate shot to actually play in the city it’s named for.

The council voted 5-3 Thursday to approve a deal, championed by St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman, that allows the Rays to seek a new stadium in Tampa, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

From the Times:

It took council members less than 90 minutes Thursday to end an eight-year stalemate between St. Petersburg and the Rays that bedeviled Kriseman and two previous mayors.

After a plan for a new downtown waterfront stadium was scuttled in 2008 under Mayor Rick Baker, relations soured. Spurned by persistent low attendance, Rays officials had asked city officials since 2010, when Bill Foster was mayor, to amend its Trop agreement and let it look for a site in Hillsborough.

Thursday’s vote clinched a hard-fought victory for Kriseman, who had failed twice before to get support from the eight-member council.

“I want to thank our city council for approving this important memorandum of understanding with the Tampa Bay Rays,” Kriseman said in an emailed statement minutes after the vote. “This agreement is good news for baseball fans, for our taxpayers, for the city of St. Petersburg, and for our entire region. I still believe the team’s current site, reimagined and redeveloped, is the best place for a new stadium, and I look forward to making the case for the Sunshine City.”

Rays owner Stuart Sternberg has said he would be forced to sell the team if it didn’t secure a new stadium, but Tropicana Field’s lease prohibited the franchise from moving outside of St. Petersburg city limits.

The Rays have ranked near the bottom of MLB in attendance throughout their 18-year existence. The 15,403 fans per game (1,247,668 total) they attracted in 2015 placed them dead last in the league for the fourth straight year, and the team has not ranked better than 22nd in baseball in average attendance in since their inaugural season in 1998.

Tropicana Field, where the Rays have played throughout their sparsely attended history, is one of baseball’s least appealing stadiums (Oakland’s Coliseum is its only real competition), but most people seem to attribute the attendance struggles to geography. The team plays not in sprawling Tampa but in nearby St. Petersburg, making the games difficult to access for many of the region’s fans.

The Rays actually do OK with television ratings, suggesting the fan support is there, they just can’t get people to the park. As Fangraphs pointed out in February, the team has the fewest fans within a 30-mile radius of its stadium of any MLB team.

Thursday’s city council vote could clear the way for the Rays to relocate to where the people are. There’s something in this for St. Petersburg as well: If the city lets the team out of its stadium deal early (the lease expires in 2027), it will be able to convert the land into residential developments, according to D Rays Bay, the Rays’ SB Nation site.

The Rays getting out of St. Petersburg would be good for the franchise, good for its fans and good for baseball. If Tampa decides taking in the team would be good for them too, there’s no reason a move shouldn’t happen.


About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports,, and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.