Thursday, July 19, 2018
News Roundup

Hillsborough leader willing to play "boyfriend" in Rays-St. Petersburg divorce

TAMPA — Mayor Bob Buckhorn said Wednesday he doesn't have a problem with Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan saying he wants to force the issue on the troubled marriage between St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Rays.

"Anything we can do to energize this discussion is fine," Buckhorn said before giving a speech to the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. "It's going to come to a head at some point, so the more we talk about it, and the more we engage, I think the better we are."

In the next breath, however, Buckhorn retreated to his standard position on the issue — that the future of the Rays in St. Petersburg is something to be decided by that city and the team alone.

And that's where he stayed.

"I am respectful of that contract and I am respectful of that relationship," he said. "We can prepare as a region to be ready, and we can do everything that we have to do if given the opportunity. But ultimately, those two parties are going to have to decide what that future looks like, and I'm not a party to that, and I don't plan on being a party to that."

In contrast, Hagan on Tuesday told the Tampa Bay Times, "I'm willing to be the boyfriend that causes the divorce."

That's a riff on Buckhorn's oft-quoted remark that he does not want to break up the Rays and St. Petersburg.

Hagan described himself as "beyond frustrated at the lack of progress regarding the Rays' long-term future in the Tampa Bay region."

"For me, just sitting by idly and hoping issues will work themselves out is counterproductive," he said.

As a result, Hagan said he plans to ask county attorneys in coming weeks for an opinion on whether the Rays' lease at Tropicana Field stops Hillsborough from talking directly to the team about its future in the region. If the county can pursue those talks, he wants to ask the team what it wants and how local government can help.

The Rays did not comment on Hagan's statements but maintain that Tropicana Field is not suitable for them in the long term. And in recent years, the team has said it wants to consider other locations, including in Hillsborough County.

That idea got a boost two years ago, when the ABC Coalition, a private business group, concluded that a stadium in or near Tampa would sell more tickets and attract more corporate support.

Meanwhile, St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and other officials insist that the Rays honor their lease, which binds them to the Trop until 2027. Anyone who comes between the team and its obligations to the city could be sued for interfering with the lease, City Attorney John Wolfe has suggested.

Hagan contends the Trop is not a viable permanent home for the Rays, so it makes no sense to delay the inevitable conversations. But he said St. Petersburg's threat of litigation has a "chilling effect" on discussions about the Rays' future.

Foster said Tuesday that Hagan's remarks surprised him, even though this isn't the first time that Hagan's comments about the Rays have raised eyebrows.

Two years ago, Hagan invited the ABC Coalition to discuss its conclusions with the County Commission, saying the board should not wait while the fate of so important a regional asset hung in the balance. Both then and now, he also said he would be okay if the Rays moved to a new stadium in Pinellas, such as in the Carillon area.

Unlike Buckhorn, however, Hagan said he wants a more active role in moving the discussion forward, including by courting the Rays, if necessary. He even volunteered to be the boyfriend in January when he saw team president Matt Silverman at a Rays charity event in Tampa.

Silverman laughed then, Hagan said, and on Wednesday Buckhorn said he's heard the same thing from Hagan.

"I've heard him use this analogy before," Buckhorn said, but "we haven't talked. There's no master plan. There's no strategy. If he wants to step on my dance card, that's okay."

Richard Danielson can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403.

Comments
Trump says he’d have no problem beating former VP Biden in 2020

Trump says he’d have no problem beating former VP Biden in 2020

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump said in an interview broadcast Thursday that running against Joe Biden in 2020 would be "a dream," claiming that Barack Obama "took him out of the garbage heap" to make him his running mate in 2008.Trump was asked ...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Rabid bat clings to woman’s arm in Sun City Center parking lot

Rabid bat clings to woman’s arm in Sun City Center parking lot

SUN CITY CENTER — A Sun City Center woman got an unusual surprise as she used the bathroom in her home Monday – a rabid bat clinging to her arm.According to the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County, the woman was helping a friend into ...
Updated: 28 minutes ago
Quarterback rankings: The best seasons in Buccaneers history

Quarterback rankings: The best seasons in Buccaneers history

It was Dec. 20, 1981, the final Sunday of the NFL regular season, and the NFC Central title was on the line. The Buccaneers were in Detroit, where the Lions hadn’t lost all season.The Lions, who were favored by a touchdown, took a 7-3 lead in t...
Updated: 29 minutes ago
Lakeland man, 21, dies in Tampa single-car crash

Lakeland man, 21, dies in Tampa single-car crash

TAMPA — A Lakeland man was killed Wednesday night after he lost control at a turn and struck a tree, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.Gabriel Wyatt, 21, was driving a 2007 Audi northbound on Old Hopewell Road toward Highway 60 ar...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Free passes to Bucs training camp already going fast

Free passes to Bucs training camp already going fast

Those free passes to a limited window for the general public to see the Bucs practice in training camp are already almost gone.Last month, the team announced that only six practices would be open to the  general public, with fans required to go ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Sex abuse victims join hands, accept courage award at ESPYs

Sex abuse victims join hands, accept courage award at ESPYs

LOS ANGELES — More than 140 survivors of sexual abuse by a former team doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University joined hands on stage to be honored with the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the ESPYs. The women who spoke out against th...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Scattered afternoon showers to persist into the weekend across Tampa Bay

Scattered afternoon showers to persist into the weekend across Tampa Bay

A strong southwestern flow continues to drag scattered showers and thunderstorms from the Gulf. As the weekend approaches, folks around Tampa Bay can expect to see a familiar pattern: morning showers near the coast and, by the afternoon, stronger and...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Pregnant Disney dancer claims gender bias in lawsuit

Pregnant Disney dancer claims gender bias in lawsuit

ORLANDO — A former aerial dancer at Walt Disney World has sued the resort alleging gender discrimination, saying she was fired after she became pregnant with twins and went on an 11-month leave. Krista Crowder filed the lawsuit in state court in Orla...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Search continues for missing diver at Eagle’s Nest in Hernando

Search continues for missing diver at Eagle’s Nest in Hernando

WEEKI WACHEE — Rescue crews will continue to search Thursday morning for a diver who failed to resurface at a dangerous cave in Hernando County.The unidentified diver was free-diving at Eagle’s Nest, meaning he was not carrying oxygen, sometime befor...
Updated: 3 hours ago
At Tampa camp, kids are on their toes, early and often

At Tampa camp, kids are on their toes, early and often

Eleven-year-old Hector Jain hasn’t been whiling away his summer.Every day, for five weeks, he and 175 other kids from across the world have been participating in the Next Generation Ballet Summer Intensive camp at the Straz Center for Performing Arts...
Updated: 3 hours ago