The minute that St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman handed the Tampa Bay Rays the right to buy out their lease clause in St. Peterburg and seek a new stadium elsewhere in the local area, it was clear that team owner Stuart Sternberg would be seeking to set up a bidding war between Pinellas and Hillsborough counties over who’d get to throw public money at the team. And how’s that going? Really well, reports Shadow of the Stadium, if you’re Sternberg, with Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan most recently setting up meetings with his county’s bankers to discuss stadium financing, in addition to helping the team narrow down a site.
Kriseman, for his part, seems shocked, shocked that a local sports baron would try to play off two governmental bodies against each other just because you told him he could:
“When we start getting into detailed conversations about financing,” Kriseman said, “what we set ourselves up for is a bidding war, and then the taxpayers are the losers when that happens.”
Yep, that’s the way it works! Kriseman seems to want Sternberg to settle on a site first, then talk about funding plans once all his leverage is gone, which is not how savvy negotiators operate. One way of getting around this would be for the two counties to team up and tell the Rays owner, “We’re not going to bid against each other, pick a site and then we’ll talk” — or even “Hey, go try to hit up the other county for money if you want, all the better if we get to watch games and somebody else gets stuck with the cost.” But that’s not how unsavvy negotiators operate.