Newton's Rays proposal shot down by City Council
A few weeks ago, Wengay Newton, a staunch opponent of allowing the Tampa Bay Rays to look around the region for a new stadium site, said he would support such a deal if the boundaries of the Southside Community Redevelopment Area were redrawn to include Tropicana Field's much-coveted 85 acres.
On Thursday, he brought that idea to a vote and lost. Only Steve Kornell joined Newton in a vote to send his proposal to committee. Five other members voted against: Charlie Gerdes, Karl Nurse, Darden Rice, Amy Foster and Jim Kennedy.
Redeveloping the Trop--with our without a stadium---could yield as much as $1 billion in development, city officials have estimated.
Newton said that money should go toward alleviating poverty in south St. Pete, the poorest part of the city. Many of the residents in Midtown, Childs Park and other southern neighborhoods remember another predominantly African-American neighborhood--the Gas Plant---was demolished in the 1980s to make way for the baseball stadium that the Rays want to exit.
"Not to have that in (the Southside CRA) is a disgrace," Newton said. "You're doing it to the people all over again."
City Administrator Gary Cornwell said Mayor Rick Kriseman isn't in favor of redrawing the CRA's boundaries "at this time."
Cornwell said the Southside CRA was just finished and approved by Pinellas County. Neither the city nor the county have any appetite to reopen a long,complicated process, he said.
Nurse said taking the Trop out of its current special taxing district would deprive the city of money needed to help build the Rays a new stadium if they decide to stay in St. Petersburg.
Newton's proposal is "somewhere between moronic and grandstanding," Nurse said.
Newton wants to hold the Rays to their contract to play at the Trop through the 2027 season, said Gerdes. That means no new tax revenue by rising property taxes spurred by development would take place if Newton got his way, he said.
If the Rays decide to leave the Trop site, then he'll vote to amend the boundaries, Gerdes said. Until then, he wants to offer the Rays the best offer to induce them to stay, he said.
"I'll hold you to that," said Newton, who is term-limited and will leave his seat at the end of the year.
Newton's younger brother Will, who lost a race to replace Wengay on council last week, spoke in favor of the proposal on Thursday as did another candidate for the District 7 seat, Sheila Scott Griffin. Griffin was defeated in the August primary.
The Rays declined comment.