St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster thanks ABC coalition for its work, even though he still doesn't want to hear its presentation
ST. PETERSBURG -- Given the economy and the current political climate, it’s hard for St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster to push too hard for a new baseball stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays.
In fact, Foster has followed the advice of his attorneys and kept the stadium-advocating ABC Coalition from even making a formal presentation to the City Council.
But that doesn’t stop Foster from a little hustling and cheerleading.
He sliced a few minutes from a previous commitment Friday to join coalition members as they made their now-familiar pitch to the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce.
To recap: The coalition of business and community leaders thinks the Rays will bolt for greener pastures unless they can count on the huge revenue boost that new stadiums generate. And since a stadium project could easily take six or seven years to complete, site selection and financing discussions need to start soon.
“We are at serious risk of losing the Rays,’’ coalition chair and Progress Energy executive Jeffrey Lyash told the chamber. “Not this year, not next year, but in the next 5 to 10 years.’’
Foster didn’t disagree, thanking the coalition for its 18 months of study.
But right now, he said, his focus is on the present — how to whip up fan and corporate for the team this year. He is meeting with Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, Pinellas County Commission chairwoman Karen Seel and Hillsborough County Commission chairman Ken Hagan, he said. He is trying to talk community groups into supporting the team
He has even talked six City Hall staffers into buying season tickets, Foster said. “The only way we will be able to talk about 2017 or 2027, the only way we will be at the table talking about the suitability of a facility is if we support the Rays this year, at this location,’’ Foster said "If we don’t have that, we may never get to any of those other discussions.’’
--Stephen Nohlgren, Times staff writer