St. Petersburg City Council Begins Rays Stadium “Chess” game

 


Peter Masa


As so many of you might heard by now through my past entries, the ABC (A Baseball Community) Coalition, which was formed to collaborate and conduct research and possible recommendations for a new Tampa Bay Rays baseball stadium has made their final reports available on their committee’s future thoughts and location proposals about the possible financing and construction of a new stadium. And the Coalition were completely open to discussing these findings in depth with the St. Petersburg City Council, before a memo sent by the City Council makes the proposed meeting moot and pointless at this stage of the game.
 
 

For about the last 18 months, the ABC Coalition, which was composed of 11+ selected Tampa Bay community leaders and power brokers have met throughout that time to whittle down the expanding list of the potential “Who, where, when and why?” of the stadium issues and proposals before finalizing their report earlier this week. that might come up in future discussions and gave their opinions and finding to these matters. And just as the Coalition was ready to embark on a long Public Relations mission to discuss the finding with the St. Petersburg City Council, Pinellas County Commission and the Pinellas Visitor’s Bureau, and possibly the Hillsborough County governing bodies, the St. Pete City Council decided to send the first volley across the Coalition’s bow to show their disapproval of the Coalition’s final report.

 
 

Most people outside of the Tampa Bay region might not know that the two counties, Pinellas and Hillsborough, have fought back and forth for the last few decades on this entire baseball issue from Day 1. And because the Coalition expanded their site locations to include possible Hillsborough/Tampa stadium locations in their findings, this was considered a blow to the initial formation plan of the St. Petersburg city officials for the group to conduct their studies on possible St. Petersburg locations, with no mention of including Hillsborough County sites in their discussions.

 
 

It so offended the basic premise of the initial formalization this study group that St. Petersburg City Attorney John Wolfe and St. Petersburg Senior Administrator co-wrote a stern recent memorandum to the ABC Coalition stating the ” any relationship the city( St. Petersburg) may have had with ABC has been effectively severed.” And as I stated before in previous blog posts, this Chess match is just beginning to show it’s first moves and this issue is considered far from over, and the memo and cancellation of the group’s presentation to the St. Petersburg City Council might just be the first “Pawn’s movement” by local government on this issue.

 
 

Because the St. Petersburg City Council considers the Coalition a “third-party” representative in this manner, they may have openly invited discussions or discussed their findings possibly with the Rays before finalizing their report. That is a direct violation of the Rays lease with the City of St. Petersburg to not have a “third party” do the talking for the team. By contract, the Rays are forbidden from discussing any possible moves before their contracts expires “officially” in 2026. Because the Coalition liberally discussed possible stadium site and issues with the Rays.

 
 

And this might have put a bump in the road to further discussion by the Coalition with the City Council, but they are still more than willing to have discussions with the Rays in the future as to the team’s stadium requests….But not through a “third party” voice like the ABC Coalition. But what might also be irritating the St. Petersburg City Council might be the simple fact that there are no recorded minutes or notes of a possible discussion with the Rays to see what input or secondary requests the Rays might have requested from the Coalition to slip in their findings.

 

 

But this same ABC Coalition did not heed the constant warnings from the St. Petersburg City Council over the past 18 months to not discuss or even include possible Hillsborough County sites since this could be considered a direct violation of the Rays Tropicana Field contract. The memo sent by St. Petersburg City Attorney Wolfe also stated: “No third party should be interfering” with the Tropicana Field contract, the memo said. “The city should not condone or permit, directly or indirectly, any such third party interference.”

The fact that the Coalition took on the possibilities of including the Hillsborough County sites showed the true fact that the group extended their reach beyond the first scope of the Coalition and might have been possibly pushed that direction by another party, possibly the Rays.

 
 
 

St. Petersburg City Council Chairwoman Leslie Curran said she would not even consider putting the ABC presentation on the upcoming City Council’s meeting agenda. She stated to the St. Petersburg Times recently that the coalition “kind of took on a life of its own,” she said. “The purpose of it to begin with, as far as I understand, was to focus on St. Petersburg, and I’m not willing to bring any idea forward that goes outside the city.”

People outside this region forget that the formulation of this Coalition actually came on the heels of the Rays and the City of St. Petersburg trying to find common ground after opposition to the sail-inspired Rays stadium plans for the city’s waterfront which was met with a hailstorm of mixed reactions on the proposed stadium, and it’s site along the waterfront. This present ever expanding stalemate with the St. Petersburg governing body is just another setback for the Rays possible stadium ideas, and the inclusion of the two possible Tampa sites has both parties balking and searching for a suitable compromise.

 
 

This is just the first folly to come to light in the ever growing drama that will encompass the Rays seeking a possible stadium location and construction agreement in the next 5-10 years. Who knows if the Coalition’s finding are a non-evasive play by the Rays to see what opposition or bridges they might need to mend in further discussions with groups on either side of Tampa Bay.

If indeed it was a silent message sent by the Rays exploring options beyond St. Petersburg and Pinellas County, the St. Petersburg City Council made sure to let their legal and personal opinions ring loud and clear to the heavens. I have to say I am proud of the City Council standing up and not letting the ABC Coalition perform a “song and dance” routine in front of the City Council without full disclosure or upfront acknowledgement of their intentions.

 
 

Www.TBO.com

Many times in the past we have seen civic groups bow low and take it on the chin for sports teams, or their hidden ploys to poke the bear in the room and see how angry he will get. Well, the ABC Coalition got their slap-in-the-face by the City of St. Petersburg. It will be fun to see how they readjust and either re-commit or fade away after this latest folly. Next up is a possible Pinellas County Commission whose bonds helped finance half of the initial funding for Tropicana Field via a Bed Tax. ABC is hoping for a presentation to this Commission possibly in March or April 2010. Who knows, maybe the PCC might also see a set of hands poking out from the back of the ABC Coalition’s spokesperson and call “foul” themselves. …. Anything is possible in politics.

  
 
 
 

20 Comments

That new stadium looked beautiful, I hope it can get done. Maybe on the east side of the bay near where the Tampa Bay Lightning play, that way some fans may be willing to drive from the Orlando/Kissimmee area.
Mike
http://mikebarryu.mlblogs.com/

The stadium, wherever it ends up, should be accessible to the most people. Definately having it in an area where people from out of town can get to it would be better. But they also need to look at parking and transit options. I hope they can find a good spot and begin getting all the permission they need.
Ginny
http://watercooler.mlblogs.com

Mike,
Actually that picture will not end up lokking like the proposed stadium. That was the downtown St. Petersburg rendition, and is not going to be re-vamped or re-used in any way for a retractable roof stadium.
Secondly, if you have eveb gone to a concert or Lightning game, you will know there are only three ways out of downtown Tampa.
Considering there will be events at the Ice Forum, and games on the same nights, that might pit 40,000+ fans trying to use the two lane feeder roads out to the Interstate or Cross-town toll roads.
Moving parking lots is what I envision right now……Plus, the Rays will lose a good percentage of their established core of fans who do not like driving in Tampa.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I hope the Rays get a new stadium and stay in Tampa Bay. If they move, that leaves just the NL Marlins. Rumor has it that if they leave Tampa, then they might come to New Jersey or Southern Connecticut. Please keep the Rays, they wont last too long up here!! No offense, but we have the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets and Phillies.
-Holly
http://irishsoxkid19.mlblogs.com

Holly,
Cosidering the dollar amounts that would have to go to teams in that region to satify their “territorial rights”, you can kiss another team in the NE goodbye fast.
People forget that if a team moves within another team’s territorial area, they have to be compensated for lost revenues.
If that would include the Yankees, Mets and Red Sox, that amount could easily go into the double figure millions of dollars without a hesitation.
Because of that, any owner thinking of even heading to Conn. or New Jersey better have an extra $50 million sitting around to just make the local teams look the other way……..and I do not see that happening at all.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

well as long as the new stadium looks nice then its good. Plus the money needs to be in check to. but guess for now the old stadium will do 4 the rays.
tmas805

Ginny,
I am just reserving judgement right now, but I could see the Rays being deceptive and working behind-the-scenes to get it near that new high speed rail near Ybor City.
Gordon Gekko was right “Greed is Good” and baseball is high on the greed meter.
Seriously, it would be great for the Gateway region of Pinellas County, because that is where it should have been bulit years ago…………but politics, bid-rigging and payola do not think straight…..Fun in the dirty South.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Who is that in your profile picture? Could you explain where it was taken? By the way, I love all your profile pix.
http://catlovesthedodgers.mlblogs.com

Tmas,
Can’t see the Rays in another stadium until 2017 at the earliest.
But then again….big money talks.
Also the economy has to be on the rebound to see a half a billion onset for such and adventure.
If not, the Dome will be home a lot longer than anticipated… or they will fly the coop.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Cat,
That is actually me and Fisher, a local radio DJ who befriended me and invited me aboard a ship by Gasparilla the last two years.
He is a great Rays fan, and wants me to call in a few times before the season to promote the team and my MLBlogs.com postings.
Today is Pirate Day in Tampa Bay because of the Jose Gaspar inspired Gasparilla Invasion and parade.
Beads, beer and a few hundred thousands of my closest friends, until I am out of beads to throw…..from the 97X float.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Yeah Cliff, anything is possible in politics–we DC natives know that too well. :/
That photo of Fisher? YIKES!
Gammons was talking in a recent entry about the Rays possibly moving to the Northeast. I can’t think of a worse idea for them. I do hope those disparate civic groups can get their collective acts together and get a new stadium built down there. It would be a disappointment to see the Rays move anywhere out of the TSP general region. Perhaps they’ll take your suggestion of Pinellas County? We’ll see…

Greg,
I hate to say it, but Gammons is wrong.
And I like Peter Gammons. I met him at a Rays Fan Fest a few years ago when he was here for a Q & A session and got his autograph.
Too many viariables are in the way for Conn/NJ to get a team when there are already two in NY.
Greg, the more poeple are hyping the high-speed rail and that plot of land, the more a Tampa site will gain momentum…Me, I want to stop that in it’s tracks, but that is like a feather against a train…..no stopping moemtum.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

That’s the concept I like. I think if they could pull that stadium off, somewhere close to the picture you posted, it would be dynamite! It helps that your new owner is from Brooklyn. I’m pulling for this new stadium deal and watching from afar. Mike
http;//thebrooklyntrolleyblogger.mlblogs.com/

Brooklyn,
More and more I am feeling that watching it from a far might actually show some of the flaws of the system compraed to us thrust into the belly of the beast.
But in reality, the more I see the sideshow for what it is worth, the more I might also see that secondary rails could be popped onto the Howard Franklin Bridge to bring fans from Orlando within hundreds of feet of the Carillion Park/St. Petersburg location.
But then it will all be about money, which is the entire key to where it will be located…..One county can produce it, the other would have to mortage its future a bit……….Tick Tock!

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Let’s hope that the Rays get their new stadium.
Nice pic! http://clevelandbaseball.mlblogs.com/

Cliff,
That is great that you get to promote your blog and also the team on the radio with your friend. Pehaps you can also help with the new stadium.
.
I should mail you some Dodger Dogs. At Dodger STadium, they serve them grilled.
Emma
http://crzblue.mlblogs.com/

Cleveland,
I just hope we can make one half as fantastic as Progressive/Jacob’s Field.
I was there when they were celebrating it’s 10th season, and it is still one of my favorites.
There is plenty of time until the final numbers and design will hit the airwaves and media.
But hopefully it will be an iconic piece of art that turns into a ballpark……..Or we can hope it does.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Emma,
Every stadium has a brand or item you have to get when you are at that ballpark.
The Rays have a hot dog called “The Heater”, but I think the “Dodger Dog” kicks its booty all over the place.
I wish I copuld get a care package of “Dodger Dogs”, but I have a feeling it would lack from the mystic of being there and eating one with the Dodger Blue fans and players surrounding you.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Cliff,
You are right. Ther is the saying from Bogart. A hot dog at the ballpark beats a steak at the Ritz.
check my tribute to Jackie in honor of his birthday today. He would have been 91!
Emma
http://crzblue.mlblogs.com/archives/2010/01/happy_birthday_jackie_robinson.html

Emma,
I like that saying.
Always knew Bogart was a baseball fan.
I will difinitely come check out the Jackie Robinson tribute today….Wow! Almost as old as Don Zimmer (lol).

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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