Bill Foster, Tampa Bay Times defer to Rays for next move

By on October 8, 2012

The following is cross-posted from the Shadow of the Stadium blog.

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster is getting a bit more shrewd with how he plays the Stadium Saga.

Following last week’s proposal for a new Rays stadium in St. Pete’s Carillon/Gateway area, Foster sent a letter to Rays owner Stu Sternberg asking to discuss the idea.

“Perhaps one of the most frequently asked questions following the CityScape presentation is ‘where do we go from here,’ ” Foster wrote in his letter, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The move drew praise from Field of Schemes author Neil deMause:

If he accepts the offer he gives up on his position that any stadium talks need to include Tampa as an option, but if he turns it down he looks like a jerk for not being willing to discuss the one proposal on the table that has, well, really crappy renderings anyway.

Foster then took to sports talk radio in Tampa Bay Friday.

“No excuses, (Sternberg & I) need to sit down and talk,” Foster told Whitney Johnson on 1040 AM.

Foster said the two men had a “cordial” relationship, but couldn’t remember the last time he heard from Sternberg (he guessed it was mid-season).  Nevertheless, the mayor praised the owner – as well as his organization – as “class acts.”

Prior to the radio appearance, the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, which will traditionally slap Foster anytime it can, was surprisingly complimentary in this morning’s paper, calling his invite to Sternberg the “logical next step.”

The editorial board also called on the Rays to open up their books to prove a financial need and then offer a financial incentive to St. Petersburg to look at new stadium options.
However, several times previously, the editorial board has made the same suggestions.  And while the Rays have never hinted they’d open their books or pay St. Pete to look elsewhere, they continue to get a free pass from the Times, which has a reputation for holding the powerful accountable.

Finally, it’s interested to look back to Bill Foster the mayoral candidate, where in 2009, he said a new stadium is a priority for the Rays or they’d leave for a more attractive deal sometime after 2016. Rebuilding on the current site was his preference, but if the team doesn’t want to stay downtown, “he could live” with the Gateway site. Letting the Rays go to Tampa was “not an option.”

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