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St. Petersburg gives Rays deadline to present park plan

ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council on Thursday set a May 16 deadline for the Tampa Bay Rays to present their plan to pay for a $450-million waterfront ballpark.

The deadline, however, isn't enforceable, and council members acknowledged it is more of a request than an ultimatum.

"They don't have to do it," said council member Jeff Danner, who suggested the deadline. "It just clarifies what we think a reasonable time is."

The Rays previously said they would deliver their plan before June 5, the date council members will be asked to cast the first of three votes to schedule a November stadium referendum.

But council members said they needed to signify their growing impatience.

"We have, for the last five or six months, been out here and approached by a variety of groups," City Council chairman Jamie Bennett said. "It's not been a very easy time. I think what you're getting to — in this period of time — is that the council wants to be able to make the right decision."

When reached Thursday, Rays senior vice president Michael Kalt had no immediate comment on the council deadline.

It's unclear if the city's request will accelerate the Rays' timetable. When addressing the council last week, Kalt said a financial offer may be ready in two to three weeks. That time frame would coincide with the council's request.

Also on Thursday, council members voted 7-1 to launch monthlong negotiations with two of the three bidders wanting to redevelop Tropicana Field. Council member Herb Polson voted no. In are Archstone-Madison and Hines. Out is Williams Quarter.

In voting to authorize negotiations, council members made clear that they hope to limit any financial risk to the city from the redevelopment.

Negotiations with developers Hines and Archstone-Madison will last through May, city officials said, with the council to select a prospective winner June 5. The development will only occur if voters approve the waterfront stadium plan.

St. Petersburg gives Rays deadline to present park plan 05/01/08 [Last modified: Sunday, May 4, 2008 11:39am]
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