Scott Wagman: New Rays stadium might not be in St. Pete
ST. PETERSBURG -- Mayoral hopeful Scott Wagman said he wouldn't require the Tampa Bay Rays to build their new stadium within city limits.
Wagman said he would like the Rays to stay in St. Petersburg but that it is more important that team officials and community leaders come up with a location that will benefit the entire region and ensure the team a long future in the Tampa Bay area.
He did say he would oppose plans to build a stadium on St. Petersburg's historic waterfront.
Wagman's position on the Rays' controversial stadium stands in stark opposition to Mayor Rick Baker's demand that the stadium be built in St. Petersburg.
Wagman clarified his position on the Rays stadium during a campaign event at the Globe Coffee Lounge on Friday.
During an informal question-and-answer discussion with supporters, Wagman said crime and job creation were his two top issues.
He also said that time-limited parking downtown should be more consistent.
UPDATE (1:40 p.m.): Fellow mayoral contender Deveron Gibbons just called Wagman's position on possibly letting the Rays leave St. Petersburg "crazy."
"That comment shows a complete lack of sensitivity for the folks who lived in the Gas Plant area and gave up so much to get baseball here," Gibbons said, referencing the forced relocation of a predominantly African-American neighborhood to make way for what is now Tropicana Field. "The people that gave up so much, that means nothing to Scott Wagman?"
Like Wagman, Gibbons said the waterfront should be off-limits to the Rays. But, Gibbons said, "we ultimately have to figure out how to keep the Rays here."
UPDATE (3:05 p.m.) Wagman isn't taking Gibbons' attack lightly. Wagman said he read Bay Buzz and then called the St. Petersburg Times to issue his response.
By insisting that the stadium be built in St. Petersburg, Gibbons and mayoral hopeful Jamie Bennett are making sure county taxpayers won't be willing to help cover construction costs and St. Petersburg will be stuck with the tab, Wagman said.
"If you are not open to other things, if you are insisting upon St. Petersburg, why would other areas be interested in helping?" Wagman said. "It's small-minded and imprudent."
Wagman did say the stadium should stay in Pinellas.
He added that a new stadium won't help African-Americans. Job creation will, he said.
Cristina Silva and Aaron Sharockman, Times staff writers