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Coalition to form to weigh Rays stadium options

Community leaders look at the new Web site for A Baseball Community Inc., also known as the ABC Coalition, during a news conference Monday to announce its formation and goals.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

Community leaders look at the new Web site for A Baseball Community Inc., also known as the ABC Coalition, during a news conference Monday to announce its formation and goals.

ST. PETERSBURG — The community coalition that will look for a place to build a new Tampa Bay Rays stadium will include nine members and take up to 18 months to complete its work, the chairman of the still-unformed group said Monday.

Those opposed to building any new stadium for the Rays aren't wanted, said coalition chairman and Progress Energy chief executive Jeff Lyash.

Lyash, who is soliciting public nominations, said he hopes to choose the other eight members by Labor Day.

Though experience and knowledge are important for whoever serves on the coalition, Lyash said, they are not the primary qualifications.

"You must be a baseball fan," said Lyash, who was flanked by Mayor Rick Baker, Rays president Matt Silverman, Pinellas County commissioners and civic leaders. "You must be committed to helping the Rays succeed in the long term."

Lyash said later that means the members must be open to the idea of building a new stadium somewhere in the Tampa Bay area. No location is off the table, Lyash said, but local elected leaders seem set on a site in St. Petersburg.

"It's important that the members of the coalition recognize the importance of Major League Baseball here and what it can bring to the community," Silverman said.

The nonprofit coalition will be called A Baseball Community Inc. It will rely on private donations, not money from government or the Rays. Board members will be unpaid.

Besides the stadium quest, the coalition will attempt to build fan and business support for the Rays, Lyash said. But its primary focus, at least publicly, will be to examine stadium alternatives.

Lyash did not describe the types of people he will choose. But most observers expect a mix from business and the community, split between the city of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County. One member may come from Hillsborough County.

Lyash did not say, however, if a member of the anti-waterfront stadium group — Protect Our Wallets and Waterfront — will be asked to join.

Niel Allen, a member of the POWW steering committee, said POWW members want to serve and would do so with an open mind.

"I know that at times the perception perhaps of POWW has been one of antibaseball," Allen said. "For me, this was not an antibaseball issue. This was a waterfront-protection issue, but even more importantly, a fiscal responsibility issue.''

Times staff writer Stephen Nohlgren contributed to this report.

. fast facts

Members sought

Progress Energy CEO Jeff Lyash, right, announced details about a nine-member community coalition asked to explore potential locations for a new baseball stadium. A Baseball Community Inc. will be chaired by Lyash, and nominations are due Aug. 4. For details, go to www.abc-baseball.com.

Coalition to form to weigh Rays stadium options 07/21/08 [Last modified: Friday, July 25, 2008 9:56pm]
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