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January 29, 2010
St. Pete to Rays stadium study group: Wrong answer! Go away now!
Whoopsie! Looks like that Tampa Bay Rays stadium commission stepped on the wrong toes when it suggested building a new stadium closer to Tampa, possibly in north Pinellas County or even Hillsborough County across the bay. The city of St. Petersburg, where the Rays currently play and which pulled together the A Baseball Community committee in the first place, is now telling the task force it doesn't want to meet with them to discuss their findings. "Any relationship the city may have had with ABC has been effectively severed," city attorney John Wolfe and city administrator Rick Mussett wrote to the city council this week, and other local officials concurred:
Council Chairwoman Leslie Curran said she would not put the ABC presentation on the agenda.
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."
New Mayor Bill Foster concurred.
"The city is not going to do anything that indicates we don't still believe that Tropicana Field is a suitable stadium,'' he said.
As amusing as it is for a city to refuse to read a report that it itself commissioned, what all this means for the Rays' stadium push is a bit unclear. On the one hand, the team has a long-term lease at Tropicana Field, and would undoubtedly need St. Pete's cooperation to extricate itself from the lease in exchange for returning the land to the city for development, as was floated once before. On the other hand, the specter of a move across the bay has at least gotten St. Pete eager to talk — both Curran and Foster invited Rays management to contact them directly about stadium talks. On the third hand, it seems like the Rays owners themselves would like to relocate closer to Tampa, so a new opportunity to open talks to stay in St. Pete might not be what they were hoping for.
Given all that, it's probably not surprising that Rays VP for stadium wheedling Michael Kalt issued a terse one-line statement that "We are not prepared to share our reaction at this time." Or maybe he's just too busy plotting his secret move to New Jersey.