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It's one, two, three RFP answers?

Wednesday was my birthday, so my wife met me downtown for a three-inning lunch.

It was exciting to see Akinori Iwamura on second base, and outfielders Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton after him in the batting order. We got to see the third baseman Evan Longoria strike out, but you know, he looked good.

There was a stiff wind coming from the south that tended to keep fly balls inside the park. We sat along the first base side and admired the masts of ships in the water off behind the leftfield foul line. We also sweltered under a March 19 sun. Maybe we needed a whaddyacallit — you know, a big sail overhead.

Raymond, the blue fuzzy team mascot, led the crowd in cheers, occasionally doing a bump and grind with his lower half. The effect is always comic and mildly bawdy.

"I wonder what Raymond thinks of moving from an air-conditioned dome to an outdoor stadium," I said.

This sort of spoiled my own mood for a moment, a reminder that we were seeing one of the last spring training games ever at Al Lang.

Spring training is moving away. Now the city of St. Petersburg is considering whether to (1) build an open-air, major league stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays on the Al Lang site, and whether (2) it can help pay for that new stadium by redeveloping the site where baseball is played indoors now, Tropicana Field.

On Tuesday, the city opened the answers to the request for proposals (the "RFP," in city lingo) it made to developers for what to do with the Tropicana site. The city got three answers, all involving some mix of retail, office, residential and green space.

One of the projects is named "EcoVerde," which sounds like the brand name for a line of lawn supplies. The project includes something called an "EcoWalk" and also an "Ecoseum." A second project is called "West End St. Pete" and the third, "Williams Quarter."

A large part of the three proposals consists of artists' renderings and gushing predictions of how much they will be worth one day.

But none of it means squat until there is a contract with teeth in it. No guarantees, no deal. No voter approval. No new baseball stadium.

The Hines group, which has ties to the Rays and has the inside track, wants to pay the city only $50-million for the site. This is a lot lower than any figure I've heard before.

But at least Hines wants to buy it. One of the others, the Archstone-Madison group, wants us to lease the land to it while it develops it. I don't think so. It also wants us to help pay for tearing down the Trop, which is why I thought we were hiring them.

The third outfit, the Williams Quarter partnership, doesn't have any specific business proposal at all. We can work out the pesky little details later, see.

I wonder if Archstone-Madison and Williams Quarter are putting in what is known in the business as "courtesy bids," just for show, while Hines has the real deal.

By the way, both Archstone-Madison and Hines want the city to promise to pick up any environmental costs on the site — in case there's more bad stuff down in the ground below the old industrial site.

I can't wait to see the deal the city comes up with.

By the way, the Rays beat the Phillies, by 3 runs to 1. Those were good, honest numbers that did not require any extra calculations, nor contingency clauses.

It's one, two, three RFP answers? 03/19/08 [Last modified: Thursday, March 20, 2008 1:51pm]
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