Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

ABC Coalition leader says it's time for Tampa Bay Rays to initiate stadium talks

ST. PETERSBURG — The leader of a coalition pressing for a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays said Thursday that it is time for the club to approach the city of St. Petersburg about opening negotiations on its lease agreement at Tropicana Field.

The city "needs to encourage dialogue with the Rays," said ABC Coalition member Craig Sher before more than 100 people at a local political luncheon at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club. "But it's the Rays' turn to stand up and tell (the city) what they want."

That line drew applause, and many heads craned to look at the expressions of five members of the City Council, who sat stone-faced at a back table. It was the first time a majority of the council heard Sher's presentation. Heads also turned toward the opposite end of the ballroom, where Michael Kalt, the only Rays executive in attendance, was sitting.

The city has refused to listen to the ABC report. Mayor Bill Foster, who has yet to hear it and was not in attendance, has said the group strayed from its mission in recommending stadium locations other than downtown St. Petersburg. The city's lease with the Rays doesn't expire until 2027, and city officials have threatened lawsuits against any group that lures the club from its commitment.

Shunned by the city, Sher has given the report to other groups, including the Pinellas and Hills­borough county commissions. He has said it would be a "death sentence" for major league baseball in the Tampa Bay area if city officials try to keep the Rays at Tropicana Field for that long. He said the stadium was outdated when it was built in the 1980s and said the coalition found only three locations — the Gateway area, West Shore and downtown Tampa — viable for Major League Baseball.

Until Thursday, however, Sher's strategy was clearly applying pressure on city officials. But he shifted a bit by saying it is up to the Rays to initiate new stadium talks.

After the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club luncheon, the Rays' Kalt brushed off Sher's advice.

"The season has just started," said Kalt, the team's senior vice president of development and business affairs. "We're focused on the season right now and having a successful 2010."

City Council members Leslie Curran, Jeff Danner, Bill Dudley, Steve Kornell and Herb Polson heard Sher's speech, during which he made light of the city's refusal to formally hear his presentation.

"I'm gratified that five members of the City Council are here," Sher said, opening up his speech. "I'm pretty sure they're not here to give me the key to the city."

Another time, when asked whether a downtown waterfront stadium could work, Sher replied: "It may be on the waterfront; it just won't be St. Petersburg's waterfront."

One person asked Sher how Pinellas and St. Petersburg could possibly pony up millions for a new stadium amid budget slashing and layoffs.

The economy will improve, Sher said, and the region has to plan for when it does.

Curran, the chairwoman of the council, said Sher's tone offended her.

"I was surprised that he was flippant throughout," Curran said. "We really need to work together on this. The question needs to be, how do we keep the Rays in St. Petersburg?"

ABC Coalition leader says it's time for Tampa Bay Rays to initiate stadium talks 04/09/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 9, 2010 10:24am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Encounters: Trial by storm for a rookie principal


    DUNEDIN — When he nodded off to sleep, the hallway lights outside Michael Vasallo's office were on, so the sudden darkness woke him.

    The glow of his desk phone dimmed.

    Michael Vasallo, right, the first-year principal at Dunedin Highland Middle School, talks with the school's head plant operator Clint Case near the back-up generator on campus. The generator failed just as Hurricane Irma passed through Pinellas County, making for a stressful night. The experience made Vasallo long to return to his regular job, educating middle schoolers. [COLEEN WRIGHT   |   Times]

  2. Who is in charge during a hurricane? Hillsborough County and Tampa still can't agree


    TAMPA — Who has the authority to order an evacuation during a hurricane?

    Mayor Bob Buckhorn says he has evacuation authority.
  3. Gators rally past Kentucky, streak hits 31


    LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the second week in a row, Florida found itself storming the field in a game that came down to the last second. A 57-yard field-goal attempt by Kentucky kicker Austin MacGinnis came just a few feet short of making history and snapping a 30-year losing streak, as the No. 20 Gators escaped a …

    Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Lexington, Ky.
  4. Pen makes it way too interesting as Rays hang on for 9-6 win


    A couple of home runs provided the news pegs of the night for the Rays, but it was more topical to talk about what nearly happened as they hung on for a 9-6 win over the Orioles.

    Lucas Duda's three-run homer in the third inning was the Rays' record-breaking 217th of the season, as well as his …

    Lucas Duda's three-run homer in the third inning was the Rays' record-breaking 217th of the season.
  5. An attempt to project what Rays will look like in 2018

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — We know what the Rays look like this year: a team that had enough talent but too many flaws, in construction and performance, and in the next few days will be officially eliminated from a wild-card race it had a chance to win but let slip away.

    Adeiny Hechavarria, high-fiving Lucas Duda, seems likely to be brought back.