Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas official open to new Tampa Bay Rays stadium but not in downtown St. Petersburg

Pinellas County might be willing to help build the Tampa Bay Rays a new stadium, but "probably not in downtown St. Petersburg," County Administrator Bob LaSala said Friday.

Furthermore, LaSala would not rule out the possibility that the county might support a stadium in Hillsborough County, but added "it's too early" and "there are too many unknowns."

LaSala stressed that he was not speaking for the County Commission, but was basing his opinion on a recent report about drive times and demographics that indicated that a mid-Pinellas location would draw more support than one in downtown St. Petersburg.

"I am only reiterating the obvious data from the report," he said.

For several years, county officials have expressed a preference for a stadium site in the mid-county Gateway area, such as the old Toytown landfill or Carillon, both of which are within the St. Petersburg city limits.

But LaSala's comments mark the first time a ranking county official has indicated the county might spurn a downtown St. Petersburg site — a potential blow to city officials.

LaSala first made the remarks at a St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce breakfast Friday, and confirmed them when questioned by the St. Petersburg Times.

The County Commission controls the hotel tax that pays for about half of the bonds on Tropicana Field. Financing a new, $550 million, retractable-roof stadium might be difficult even if the hotel tax once again underwrites construction costs.

Without the hotel tax, public financing would fall almost entirely on St. Petersburg's shoulders and likely would encounter huge political opposition.

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster was at a city news conference when he was told about LaSala's comments. He said he was surprised by LaSala's stance on not supporting a downtown stadium.

"We haven't talked about stadiums and funding," Foster said.

When told that LaSala didn't dismiss Pinellas support for a Hillsborough stadium, Foster objected in blunt terms.

"If that's true, then he and I will discuss some legal issues," Foster said. "That's a mistake. He's our partner, and I've ruled (a Hillsborough stadium) out. It's a mistake."

Rays senior vice president Michael Kalt declined to comment about a new stadium, continuing to stress that the team's "focus remains on the field." However, Kalt did say this of LaSala: "We're glad he's engaged in the conversation."

In March, the County Commission heard a report by the ABC Committee that reviewed stadium options, but only after weeks of considering how it might play politically. Even then, commissioners didn't give much feedback because of St. Petersburg's hands-off approach to the committee's work.

County Commissioner Nancy Bostock called LaSala's comments premature given the board hasn't had a chance to talk about options, but stressed she had no qualms about LaSala addressing the issue.

"I think it would be a great time for the County Commission to sit down and have a work session and talk about this," said Bostock, noting that nothing has been discussed in her 18 months on the board.

But discussing paying for a new stadium when a budget shortfall causes job cuts at the Sheriff's Office is a nonstarter, said Commissioner Neil Brickfield. "We're getting way ahead of ourselves."

Nonetheless, Brickfield and County Commissioner Ken Welch emphasized keeping the Rays inside the county, not the city. In fact, the companies that would redevelop Toytown made sure a stadium would be allowed under their plans.

"I actually spoke to the developers early on, and frankly they were excited about a stadium," said Welch, who lives in St. Petersburg.

Times staff writer Stephen Nohlgren contributed to this report David DeCamp can be reached at or (727) 893-8779.

Pinellas official open to new Tampa Bay Rays stadium but not in downtown St. Petersburg 05/07/10 [Last modified: Friday, May 7, 2010 10:51pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Carlton: A moment of sanity when citizens finally said no


    If you were looking for some small sign of sanity in the world, here's one courtesy of the people of Tampa and Hillsborough County.

    The Confederate memorial statue outside the old Hillsborough courthouse is now boxed up in plywood to prevent vandalism. Private donors have ponied up money to have the statue relocated to a cemetery. [JIM DAMASKE  |  Times]
  2. Review: Jason Aldean fires up a country-dude party at Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre


    Country music has a dude problem.

    I’m not talking about the proliferation of mindless bro country over the past half-decade, nor am I referring to the fact that most of Nashville’s best music these days comes not from said bros, from female singers and songwriters.

    Jason Aldean performed at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa on Aug. 18, 2018.
  3. President Trump offers prayers for Kissimmee police


    President Donald Trump reacted to the police shooting in Kissimmee:

  4. Kissimmee police officer dies, one gravely wounded; Jacksonville officers shot


    KISSIMMEE — A Kissimmee police officer died and a second was gravely wounded Friday night, police Chief Jeff O'Dell said.

    Two police officers have been shot and killed in Kissimmee, authorities say. The shooting happened in the area of Palmway and Cypress around 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. Photo courtesy of
  5. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Seattle Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso (10) scores on the double by Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.