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City presses Rays for answers on new stadium

ST. PETERSBURG — The time for answers related to the Tampa Bay Rays' proposed $450-million waterfront stadium is running out, City Council members emphasized in a meeting with team officials Thursday.

"There are a lot of red signs out there," City Council Chairman Jamie Bennett told Rays president Matt Silverman and senior vice president Michael Kalt.

Bennett and council members laid out a series of fresh questions for the Rays during an afternoon workshop. In the evening, nearly 580 people came to City Hall for an open forum on the stadium issue.

Council members, who have been barraged by arguments from both proponents and opponents, quizzed Rays' executives and city administration officials on terms of the Rays' financing plan.

They picked at parking arrangements and city revenue projections, and sought guarantees related to development.

"A lot of what's portrayed is all you have to do is put it on the referendum and let people decide," said council member Jeff Danner. "We're expected to do a lot more than that. We've got to cover the city's exposure. I don't think we have to put an incomplete or bad proposal on the ballot so that people will have a vote."

Council members face a series of three votes to schedule a possible November referendum, with the first vote June 5. The council must approve the referendum at all three stages for the public vote to move forward. A "no" vote at any point would kill the proposal.

The last vote is scheduled for Aug. 7.

Rays and city administration officials said that leaves about 10 weeks for the city and the team to reach agreements related to financing and parking, if agreements can be reached. The city administration has not taken a side on the proposal.

Speaking to council members Thursday, Rays officials acknowledged that several questions need to be resolved. Council members seemed to be growing impatient.

Opponents speaking at a public hearing Thursday night appeared to significantly outnumber proponents.

"We want this to go forward if the city and the county and the residents want it to happen," Silverman said. "We have the benefit of a couple of months before it needs to be put on the ballot."

City presses Rays for answers on new stadium 05/22/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 27, 2008 4:42pm]
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