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Pinellas leaders pass on St. Petersburg's offer of Rays playoff tickets

ST. PETERSBURG — With the playoffs starting, the Tampa Bay Rays batting order isn't the only lineup attracting attention.

There's also the lineup for tickets controlled by City Hall for games today and Thursday.

City officials would not provide a list of who has dibs on the tickets, though Mayor Bill Foster said he'll be in the seats each game.

For each game, the city generally has 26 tickets to disburse. A suite with 16 tickets — worth $170 each — goes to the eight City Council members and guests.

The remaining 10 at $63 each are at field level, near the dugout on the first base side. Foster gets two tickets, as do former Mayors Rick Baker and David Fischer.

But one group turned down the city's offer of four tickets for each game: the Pinellas County Commission. None of the seven commissioners nor County Administrator Bob LaSala took up the city on its offer.

The reasons given include the afternoon timing of the games, busy schedules and tight financial times.

Foster said he understood. He wasn't happy with the games' starting times, either.

"The team won the American League East, and I think deserved a more prominent spot in the television rotation," Foster said.

The other hiccup was cost — and ethics. County attorneys consider the city a lobbyist under Florida law, so commissioners can't accept gifts worth more than $100. After the 2008 playoffs, nine officials paid the city more than $3,000 for ticket and parking costs, according to a county report. Some weren't ready to do it again this year.

"It's not in the budget," said commission Chairwoman Karen Seel, who paid $758 in 2008 for eight tickets and parking.

Some county officials took notice at the city's offer of four tickets for a seven-member board. Especially considering that, technically, the county owns Tropicana Field, although the team's use agreement is with the city.

"What are we supposed to do, sit on each other's laps?" joked Commissioner John Morroni.

St. Petersburg City Council members also pay for their tickets because suite tickets exceed the allowed amount for gifts.

Council member Bill Dudley said he spent $7,000 on the 2008 playoffs and World Series.

"We have to buy them," he said. "We can't accept them. I'll probably do what I did last time. It's the chance of a lifetime."

A Rays spokesman said he was unaware of the team giving tickets to other Tampa Bay area public officials or politicos. St. Petersburg's tickets are part of the city's contract with the team.

Michael Van Sickler contributed to this report.

Pinellas leaders pass on St. Petersburg's offer of Rays playoff tickets 10/05/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 6, 2010 2:00pm]
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