Pace of game problems? St. Pete's campaign is on track, says city
When the "Baseball Forever" campaign was launched at Ferg's at the end of February, people cheered and danced at the prospect of keeping the Tampa Bay Rays right where they play now: Tropicana Field.
Since then, the 37-member commission put together by Mayor Rick Kriseman and the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce has held a meeting to pick subcommittees and given away nearly 1,000 t-shirts with the campaign's logo, hundreds of them on Opening Day.
But some commission members have privately grumbled that the campaign isn't moving quickly enough to pitch the city's case before the Rays make up their minds on where to build a new stadium.
And powerful State Sen. Jack Latvala this week blasted the committee for being too St. Pete-centric in both its membership and its focus.
One committee member, Ed Montanari, said he agreed with a lot of what the Clearwater Republican had to say.
"I am pleased to see Senator Latvala willing to help with keeping the Rays. I strongly want them to remain in St. Petersburg, but the senator raises some great points in his letter. I would personally welcome his leadership along with someone from the Pinellas County Commission to join our campaign," Montanari said.
Mayor Rick Kriseman told the Tampa Bay Times that his job as mayor is to focus on selling the Trop site. He said he would support any pick that emerged. He responded formally to Latvala Tuesday.
King said Wednesday he understood that some Baseball Forever members are anxious to get a formal plan together, but urged calm.
"We've got a great deal of time," King said. "The mayor's philosohpy is to get it right."
And King said, compared to Tampa, St. Petersburg is way ahead of the game.
"Look at where we are," he said, citing the city's control over 85 acres, an organized campaign and ideas for financing, including Pinellas County tourist tax dollars and Trop redevelopment revenue. "I don't think anyone across the bay is that far down the road."
Rick Mussett, a retired longtime senior city official, said he was hired by Kriseman in February to get a formal pitch to the Rays by the end of the year.
He said the response to the campaign has been overwhelmingly positive. People want the team to stay in St. Pete, Mussett said.
Rays owner Stu Sternberg said after the Rays luncheon sponsored by the St. Petersburg and Clearwater chamber of commerces Tuesdy, that he's not concerned with the pace of the Baseball Forever campaign.
"The pace, for me, is not important," Sternberg said. "We've waited a long time to get to this point. A few months here or there won't matter as long as we get it right."