Rays receive permission to expand search for ballpark sites

Tropicana Field (Chris O'Meara/AP)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The St. Petersburg City Council has voted to give major league baseball’s Rays permission to search for new ballpark sites on both sides of Tampa Bay.

The team has played since its inception in Pinellas County at what now is called Tropicana Field in downtown St. Petersburg.

The 5-3 council vote Thursday gives the Rays, who have already have been examining potential sites for a new stadium in St. Petersburg or surrounding Pinellas County, three years to also explore possibilities on the east side of the bay where Tampa is located.

The agreement spells out how much the Rays would have to pay the city if the club leaves its current home before its lease expires in 2027.

It also contains a provision for the team to benefit economically from the redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site, which St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman believes is the best location to build a new stadium.

"Major League Baseball appreciates this step forward taken by the St. Petersburg City Council and remains fully supportive of Stu Sternberg’s vision to bring this stadium process to conclusion," Major League Baseball said in a statement. "Mr. Sternberg’s patience and persistence throughout the franchise’s long-standing efforts have illustrated his commitment to the fans of the region. We look forward to further progress in the weeks and months ahead as the Rays strive to ensure the future of the franchise with a first-class ballpark in the region."

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