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Tampa Bay Rays task force starts to focus on areas for new stadium

ST. PETERSBURG — The group studying sites for a new Tampa Bay Rays stadium said Tuesday it could have a series of interim findings by June.

But, the group cautioned, the site for a possible new stadium will not be among them.

Jeff Lyash, chairman of the group called A Baseball Community, said he hoped to focus — at least initially — on areas where a stadium could be located, not specific properties. Talk mostly has centered on the Carillon and Gateway areas in north St. Petersburg and, to a lesser extent, downtown St. Petersburg and Tampa.

"This is not meant to be conclusionary," said Lyash, Progress Energy Florida's president and chief executive.

Lyash, whose group started meeting in the fall, has said he hoped to have final recommendations for city and county leaders by early 2010.

The interim findings also could touch on other issues, including stadium design and potential funding scenarios, Lyash said.

The group said it also hopes to address the possibility of renovating the Rays' current home, Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. The Rays hired stadium architect HOK Sport of Kansas City, Mo., to evaluate renovating Tropicana Field. A report could be available next month, Rays senior vice president Michael Kalt said Tuesday.

Also Tuesday, Rays officials discussed a study that found that baseball fans from outside the area spent between $135 million and $211 million on visits to St. Petersburg last season.

The study, paid for by the team and first presented to tourism officials last month, estimated 455,000 out-of-town fans bought tickets to Rays games, representing about a quarter of the club's 1.78 million annual attendance, the report by economic consultants Arduin, Laffer & Moore said. Visiting teams spent an additional $1.5 million in the area.

Al Lang Field, lot could get 'park' label

St. Petersburg city officials on Tuesday took a first step toward designating Al Lang Field as parkland. A city planning commission unanimously approved rezoning the waterfront ballpark and its parking lot as a park. The change is largely symbolic — it can be reversed at any time — but proponents say it signals the intent of the city to keep the former spring training ballpark as open space. The City Council is set to consider the rezoning in June.

Tampa Bay Rays task force starts to focus on areas for new stadium 03/10/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 10, 2009 9:59pm]
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