St. Pete council to proceed on Rays workshop, despite mayor's misgivings

Despite the mayor's protest, the City Council will discuss building a new stadium in the city.

Published February 16 2015
Updated February 17 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — City staff won't help and Mayor Rick Kriseman says it's premature, but the City Council is going forward with a workshop later this week to talk about building a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays.

The memo Kriseman sent council members late Friday — ordering city staffers to stop preparing for the Thursday workshop — won't preclude council members from starting to plan for the future, council Chairman Charlie Gerdes said.

"There's plenty of things to discuss," Gerdes said Monday. "Whether we need to anticipate building a new stadium in a few months or a few years, there are issues we need to analyze and prepare for."

The unanimous vote to hold the workshop was made at the council's Dec. 18 meeting, the same forum in which it scuttled a plan championed by Kriseman to let the Rays look at stadium sites across Pinellas County and in Hillsborough County.

Kriseman and Rays president Brian Auld met earlier this month, announcing afterward that they were making progress. But Friday, Kriseman informed the council that he thought any discussion about stadium plans in St. Petersburg would be premature and could hinder negotiations.

Council member Jim Kennedy, who first raised the idea of a workshop, said he was concerned that Kriseman's order to city staffers would undermine the effectiveness of the meeting.

"I'm not sure how productive it's going to be," Kennedy said. The mayor and the Rays are in the best position to answer what actions the city and county can take to facilitate a new stadium in St. Petersburg, he said. That is one of 11 questions Kennedy listed last month that he said he wanted to explore at the workshop.

"It concerns me that it doesn't seem as if the questions that have been raised are going to have any answers," Kennedy said.

Rays spokeswoman Rafaela Amador declined to comment on whether team officials would attend the workshop or on its potential effectiveness.

Council member Amy Foster said a workshop would be valuable to determine if a majority of council members even support building a new stadium.

"Dialogue and discourse is always healthy. We need to have these discussions and have them publicly," she said.

The workshop is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday in the first-floor conference room at City Hall. St. Pete TV will televise the proceedings live.

Contact Charlie Frago at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow @CharlieFrago.

   
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