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ABC Coalition says report on new Tampa Bay Rays stadium a month or two away

A group of business and community leaders pushing for a new baseball stadium said Friday that it will present its conclusions to public officials and interested citizens soon.

It just might take a month or two longer than expected.

The ABC Coalition had planned to approve a draft report Friday, based on a year of studies about stadium design, location, corporate support and financing.

Instead, it delayed that vote until December or January so that the report can be translated from bullet points into an easier-to-read, narrative format.

Coalition chairman Jeffrey Lyash said he would contact the St. Petersburg City Council, the Pinellas County Commission and the Pinellas County Tourist Development Council about presenting the report in late January or early February.

The coalition, an 11-member advisory group formed in 2008 at the behest of St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, has no timetable for replacing Tropicana Field as the home of the Tampa Bay Rays.

But major league baseball won't be "viable'' in the long run without a modern, retractable-roof stadium and the revenues it would generate, the coalition has concluded.

Without such a stadium in place before the Trop contract expires in 2027, "the prospect of losing baseball is real,'' according to current language in the coalition's draft report.

At one point during Friday's meeting, some members suggested that the coalition also make some kind of formal presentation to public officials in Hillsborough County — a sensitive topic because Baker has made it clear that St. Petersburg, party to the Trop lease, would fight any effort to move the Rays across the bay.

But Bob Stewart, who has served on both the St. Petersburg council and the Pinellas commission, suggested that the coalition limit its initial presentations to Pinellas officials, who control the purse strings that built the Trop.

"The pecking order is very important. The timing is very important,'' Stewart said. "It is so easy for these groups to get their noses out of joint.''

The group agreed, but it left open the possibility of later presentations in Tampa if officials there request them.

The coalition briefly discussed a letter it received this week from the city of St. Petersburg emphasizing that the Rays and the city have a binding agreement for the Rays to play at the Trop until 2027. Committee members agreed they will consider the city's positions as they draft their final report.

Find out more

To see a list of ABC Coalition studies, go to www.abc-baseball.com/news/presentations.

For the most recent draft report, go to links.tampabay.com.

ABC Coalition says report on new Tampa Bay Rays stadium a month or two away 11/20/09 [Last modified: Friday, November 20, 2009 11:13pm]
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