The plan for our Tampa Bay Rays? The mayor takes a shot

Turns out St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster really is a man with a plan for keeping the Rays in Tampa Bay.

Except it's not a plan, exactly.

More like a strategy type thing.

Kind of plan-ish. You could even call it the mayor's own plan-ette.

For nearly two weeks, a city scratched its collective head over Foster's assertion that he indeed has a plan to have us cowbelling around here for years to come. (Uh, did someone just say Secret Stadium Deal?)

But the subsequent lack of public details had some wondering if an Easter Bunny sighting was more likely than learning what he had in mind.

So the mayor stepped forward with a two-page explanation of his Plan, which ran in the Times this week. And if you will allow me to boil this down for you, it goes something like:

1. Hold the Rays' feet to the fire, since they are under contract to play here 16 more years and St. Petersburg and Pinellas have invested in them big-time.

2. Support ongoing private efforts to keep them here.

3. Support your local team. Go Rays!

Yep, in short, pretty much the same stuff you already knew and not some secret-squirrel stadium plan to blow us all away and make them stay.

This is-there-or-isn't-there-a-Plan question came up after City Council members got antsy about the stalemate between the Rays, who say playing until 2027 at the Trop is not financially doable, and the city, which won't let the team explore potential sites in Hillsborough.

That's when Foster assured them of his detailed Plan — You know, guys, the one I told you about? — except most of them had no clue what he meant.

But a Plan, you say? If there was a Plan to keep the team, we the people wanted details! Were they already painting in parking spots at an undisclosed stadium site somewhere in Pinellas? Debating Nathan's vs. Ball Park as official dog of the new digs?

Who's paying for it? Where will it be? Is it convenient for me? Give us the Plan!

Or, as it turns out, the general strategy.

Foster's missive talks about the city "preparing for any and all scenarios when dealing with the Rays and Major League Baseball" given "the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars by the people of St. Petersburg and Pinellas." It talks of ginning up regional support. It says the city itself does not have a plan for construction of a new stadium.

He did catch my eye with the part about keeping the team competitive "in the Tampa Bay region." As in, even beyond Pinellas? Tampa, even?

"No," the mayor clarified Wednesday. He was talking about the Rays as a regional asset.

He also said the word "plan" may have stirred this tempest (with the help of this newspaper, he said.)

"The erroneous speculation brought about by my own words," he said.

"I take full responsibility that it was me opening my mouth that caused it," he said. "I think people thought there's a secret cigar-filled backroom plan in the works."

And so we are where we are, hoping the Rays stay in Tampa Bay. And the mayor in the middle?

"I'm still getting my mayor legs," Foster said.

Now that's a plan.

The plan for our Tampa Bay Rays? The mayor takes a shot 09/01/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 28, 2011 4:58pm]

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