Will Tampa Bay Divide Again?
Really Hillsborough County Commission? You really want to step on these collective St. Petersburg and Pinellas County toes again? Just because this side of the bay is envisioned daily wearing mostly Docker shorts and inexpensive flip flops and spending most of their downtime hanging out at beach bars drinking fruity drinks with umbrellas, can you seriously considering this hot potato of controversy was not going to divide this region’s opinions again. By considering to even ask for a formal powwow with the A Baseball Community (ABC) Coalition to speak to your own divided HCC membership on this issue seems to be amateurish at best.
And it might be helpful for your ultimate goal HCC Chairman Ken Hagan, if you had every one of your HCC Commissioners’ on board with you in advance. I know I personally think it stupid and frowned upon when your own group has a division within its own house before you commit to anything, but then again, that might not be your style of leadership. Funny how HCC Commissioner Jim Norman comment to the St Petersburg Times recently that ” He’s (Hagan) not speaking for me”, might speak volumes that this might be more of a newspaper/media shout-out crusade by you for some free press and attention when your own county’s finances and future sport ventures revenues might be in a tight knit ball with no strings left dangling.
Are you really going to try and throw your County’s already smug “superiority complex” out there for everyone else to see? Or will you say you are “doing your job” by claiming you are doing due diligence on the Rays stadium issue by trying to get an preliminary discussion going with the ABC Coalition, which has no political pull or remote chance of being a key player in any future discussions of this stadium deal. And did you forget something remember Mr. Hillsborough County Commission Chairman, especially now in this down economic climate, money talks and B S walks, even within a city considered a even Southern folks to be a “cow town” until as recently as 1990.
Until today, your agency has been playing it smart by sitting back and letting all the dust settle on the Tampa Bay Rays stadium issue. So why is it right now, when the focus should be on the influx of Major League Baseball players about to arrive and begin to fill the county business coffer’s and housing vacancies in our regional community that you want to tip over the apple cart and start a controversy and ultimate division of the region……..again. Oh! You think most of us have not forgotten the sorted past power struggles for control of Tampa Bay baseball between the Sharks (Morsani) and the Jets (Namoli) posses’ proclaiming our own version the epic “West Side Story” doing their own improvisational song and dance towards getting the region’s first taste of MLB-quality baseball?
How embarrassing it was for us as Tampa Bay area citizens to watch as two separate Tampa Bay Baseball groups considered themselves superior and collectively converged upon MLB as separate business entities to try and seducing the MLB power brokers during the first round of expansion site considerations and verbally sparred in the media and tried to constantly downgraded the other to show a visible key weakness of community division in the Tampa Bay area’s quest for baseball. That neither of the area’s groups even ventured into the expansion discussions with the MLB hierarchy with the same agenda points showed the deep division by the region, and not only by the saltwater that separated the two battling communities.
That first attempt became a complete and utter fiasco and the first expansion team in Florida ended up being awarded to another Florida group poised down Miami way because our two communities were doing their rendition of the Hatfield’s and the McCoys and canceled each other out by internal regional fisticuffs. The MLB leadership seemed to find it unnerving and utterly shallow that the two Tampa Bay groups were fighting for this one region’s team, and no compromises from either group was on the horizon. And it was not until each side of the bay ultimately agreed and considered that the Namoli baseball group out of St. Petersburg might have the necessary political and baseball clout to impress and regain MLB’s trust that the Tampa Bay region’s should be considered a viable location for baseball. Divided regional loyalties ceased and we collectively began the hunt to fight for a MLB team as one region.
How does your little political power play now by asking the ABC Coalition to chat with your group before they finish their rounds of discussions with the Pinellas County government agencies not constitute the basic element of tampering? How did you find a mindset of justify your pushing your collective political agenda forward with these actions being “okay” and not the usual sleezybag ” look at me” political mentality associated with an ultimate misplay of power by a government official. How soon is this school yard power play going to backfire into your faces like a kid with a firecracker on the Fourth of July? Did you even think of the massive repercussions of your request, or were you going to “play dumb” to the white noise that came from this action and hope support came running of unforeseen sources?
How can a leader of a county governmental agency who ultimately knows that his area’s finances are tied up neatly in a beautiful bow be so into discussing something they realistically can’t consider unless they want to possibly anger their own region’s citizens by asking them to tighten their belts a little tighter, or maybe even pull the sheepskins over their citizen’s eyes by imposing another bump in future sales taxes to even consider such a future power play. Has the HCC Chairman really been blunt and honest enough to Hillsborough’s own citizen to tell them that their possible finance options for such an future endeavor as seducing the Rays to their side of the bay might be unfathomable unless extreme measures were taken to secure even minimal finances for such a proposal.
Hagan can not say he is on his own “fact-finding mission”, that was the entire reason for the initial existence of the ABC Coalition in the first place, but it was to center on Pinellas County and St. Petersburg options towards future support of baseball, not expand its horizons over the bridge towards the eastern shore of the region. I think the Hillsborough community should be proud of the past HCC commitments to improving sports projects among their community made possible by them imposing the half-cent sales tax increase in the past to help fund projects like Raymond James Stadium and other sports ventures. And that theirs collective County revenue stream for such projects will be weakened until after 2026, which is beyond the current Rays stadium lease with the City of St. Petersburg.
And also maybe forgotten by Hagan was the Hillsborough County additional financial sports projects commitments made possible by their collection of an a hotel tax increase that helped financially secure the building of such venues as The Forum, the modernization of the Florida State Fairgrounds complex, upgrade to Raymond James Stadium and George Steinbrenner Field and will ultimately limit the HCC coffers in that aspect until 2035.
With the Rays about to “officially” unveil the new “Sunday” alternate jerseys on Wednesday with no “Tampa Bay” regional significance emblazoned over the front of their new “Sky Blue” color pallet jerseys, maybe the team is sending out early signals that this entire fiasco will be done in a business manner with no regards to communities or even social acceptance down the road. Maybe the Rays are setting up another scenario, a more concise and surgical approach that none of us will see coming, not even from our front porches looking towards the tilted forward roof of the Trop.
And the whole process of Hagan even asking for a chance to speak to the Coalition might have sent ripples through the region. The City of St. Petersburg is already on the defensive since the committee ultimately overstepped their initial set of guidelines and considered locations outside Pinellas County. And with these new calls from the east side of Tampa Bay wanting an audience to discuss the idea of Tampa Bay baseball can be viewed in many ways, with interesting twists all over the place. But unless the HCC as a group can shoot down any of the locations, or open their financial situation wide for all to see, this has to be just another wedge to force this region apart again with no healing in sight. This whole new Hillsborough County Commission situation just opens another wide open wound that needs a bandage quick before in gets infected and turns into another ugly mess. You can be sure I will keep my ears to the ground hoping to hear something new, and hopefully inspirational to everyone within Tampa Bay.