Make us your home page
Instagram

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 [email protected] 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

Loading...
  1. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start

    College

    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  2. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Ryan Callahan spent a lot of time last season rehabilitating his injured hip alongside Steven Stamkos, who was rehabbing a knee after season-ending surgery. During those hours, Callahan noticed two things about Stamkos: his hunger and his excitement to return this season.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  3. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy

    World

    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  4. Funeral held for soldier at center of political war of words (w/video)

    Nation

    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102
  5. Chemical industry insider now shapes EPA policy

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — For years, the Environmental Protection Agency has struggled to prevent an ingredient once used in stain-resistant carpets and nonstick pans from contaminating drinking water.

    This is the Dow chemical plant near Freeport, Texas. Before the 2016 election, Dow had been in talks with the EPA to phase out the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which is blamed for disabilities in children. Dow is no longer willing to compromise.