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Under new deal, Al Lang Field could be home to baseball again

The city agreed to lease Al Lang Field, the Tampa Bay Rays’ former spring training home, to the St. Petersburg Baseball Commission.

SCOTT KEELER | Times (2008)

The city agreed to lease Al Lang Field, the Tampa Bay Rays’ former spring training home, to the St. Petersburg Baseball Commission.

ST. PETERSBURG

Downtown's Al Lang Field could soon house a baseball academy and a museum under a new leasing deal designed to revive the vacant historic ballpark.

The City Council agreed last week to lease Al Lang and the Raymond A. Naimoli Complex to Tampa Bay Spring Training, an offshoot of the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention and Visitors Bureau's Sports Commission.

The business group has vowed to attract local baseball coaches, who will train their players to play visiting teams. International teams will also be courted to train there, a baseball landmark since 1947. A new History of Baseball in St. Petersburg Museum will highlight the city's historic relationship with baseball.

The three-year deal takes effect Feb. 1. Tampa Bay Spring Training will operate as the St. Petersburg Baseball Commission.

The Tampa Bay Rays used both parks from 1997 to 2009, but did not renew its lease after relocating spring training to Charlotte County in 2008.

The lease requires the St. Petersburg Baseball Commission to cover utilities, insurance fees, grounds maintenance, staffing, marketing and repairs up to $10,000 a year.

The commission will be able to rename or sell Al Lang's naming rights, with the City Council retaining final say over the name of the facility. The baseball commission can keep all proceeds up to $100,000 from the sale. Proceeds in excess of $100,000 will be divvied up between the city and the tenant, with the city receiving 75 percent of the cut.

The city also agreed to pay up to $200,000 a year for capital repair, according to the contract.

The city will still operate Al Lang's parking lot and pocket any parking revenue. The city also will be able to use both recreation facilities rent-free for up to four days each year.

"The idea of having baseball back at Al Lang, I like, but the economics of the deal are also good," City Council member Jim Kennedy said.

St. Petersburg is poised to save $680,000 a year on the new deal compared to its lease agreement with the Rays, city officials said.

Council member Wengay Newton, however, was upset that the city was giving away the naming rights without first researching how much such a deal could be worth.

"I would like to see a number before you negotiate," he said.

The contract stipulates Al Lang must close for certain periods to accommodate downtown's annual Grand Prix.

Joe Zeoli, the city's managing director of city development, said the weekly Saturday Morning Market, which operates from Al Lang's parking lot, should also be able to stay put under the deal.

"Right now, that is certainly our plan," he said.

Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or csilva@sptimes.com.

Under new deal, Al Lang Field could be home to baseball again 01/12/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 8:57pm]
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