St. Pete flap with county is bump in the road says administrator
Pinellas County administrator Mark Woodard said Tuesday the partnership between St. Petersburg and the county remains strong despite recent discord over Mayor Rick Kriseman's focus on keeping the Tampa Bay Rays in the city.
State. Sen. Jack Latvala and several county commissioners, most vocally Janet Long, have criticized Kriseman and his chief of staff Kevin King for creating a St.-Pete -centric "Baseball Forever" campaign and, for King's dimissive comments about Oldsmar as a possible site for a new Rays stadium.
But Woodard characterized the in-fighting among Pinellas County politicians as a "bump in the road" in a meeting with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board.
He said the county is a partner not a competitor with St. Pete in the effort to keep the Rays in Pinellas. The "majority" of county commission agrees that "the best place for the team is right where it's at."
If Tropicana Field isn't chosen by the Rays, the county will market other sites on county land. The most promising is Derby Lane, Woodard said, although he said he didn't know if the dog track's owners were willing to sell. He said the Toytown landfill wasn't high on the list because of the environmental hurdles inherent in building on the former dump.
Oldsmar itself faces transportation tangles that would be very difficult to overcome, Woodard said, of the small Pinellas city on the border of Hillsborough County. The 120-acre site pitched by Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis and City Manager Bruce Haddock to the Rays last month isn't geometrically favorable to baseball, he said, because its "long, thin rectangular" parcel isn't conducive to building a diamond-shaped baseball park.
Woodard echoed Long, who said Monday that the city and county need to work closely together, especially since the city would be dependent on county bed taxes to build a new stadium. But he emphasized that the Trop should be the first objective of any county effort to woo the team.
Woodard said he called Kriseman after reading King's comments about Oldsmar in the Times. One result of that conversation was Kriseman's invitation for Commissioner Ken Welch to join the Baseball Forever campaign, Woodard said.
King's comments in which he said selecting Oldsmar as a stadium site would alienate both St. Petersburg and Tampa and is akin to driving to Georgia from south Pinellas were "imprudent..poor timing...and the wrong choice of words," Woodard said.
"I'm sure the mayor has taken the necessary corrective action," Woodard said.
Kriseman's office didn't immediately respond to an inquiry about any corrective action taken by the mayor.