Tampa Bay Rays billboard may have to come down, lacks state permit

ST. PETERSBURG — A billboard owned by the Tampa Bay Rays has run afoul of Florida's advertising laws and may have to be taken down.

The offending 114-foot electronic billboard overlooks Interstate 275 and sits not far from the team's home at Tropicana Field. The problem, state officials say, is that the team is running advertisements for other businesses such as a local car dealership, violating a state law that requires signs over a highway to advertise only for the business at that location.

Initially, the Rays used the billboard to advertise their games and special events, which they can legally do without a permit. They can also advertise for Chick-fil-A and other businesses with franchises in the stadium. But once the team began putting up ads for other businesses, it caught the Florida Department of Transportation's attention.

In mid June, FDOT officials sent the team a notice of violation, giving the ball club 30 days to remove the sign or pay the $4,800 cost for the state to take it down for them. To keep its sign as is, the team would have to get a special permit.

That warning came over two months ago, and the team's billboard is still standing. The Rays were able to postpone any action from the state by submitting two permit applications, but according to FDOT officials, both of those applications were found incomplete.

Another wrinkle in the team's attempt to keep its billboard intact is FDOT official's finding that it is 275 feet away from a permitted sign. State law requires 1,500 feet between permitted signs visible from an interstate.

St. Petersburg city officials said the billboard has been in place since 2005. Though they consulted with the team on the billboard's design, they left it to the Rays to make sure they followed state law. A spokesman for the Rays declined to comment.

Contact Anna M. Phillips at aphillips@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8779.

Tampa Bay Rays billboard may have to come down, lacks state permit 08/20/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 11:59pm]

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