ST. PETERSBURG -- Renovating Tropicana Field is impractical, selling it now doesn't make financial sense and paying for a new stadium will be difficult when there's millions of dollars in debt on the old one.
Those were some of the highlights of a meeting Monday by A Baseball Community, the private group studying stadium options for the Tampa Bay Rays.
The group was formed to study the best ways to finance a new baseball stadium and the Tampa Bay Rays' economic impact to St. Petersburg and Pinellas County.
The talks are academic and preliminary, the group cautioned. But among the early highlights:
• A subcommittee of the group said renovating Tropicana Field is impractical, in part because of the cost associated, an estimated $470 million, and in part because the group says it would not wholly answer the Rays' needs.
• Selling Tropicana Field during a recession doesn't make financial or practical sense.
• Financing a ballpark in Pinellas or St. Petersburg is difficult because the city and county are still financing the construction of Tropicana Field through 2016, and because Pinellas doesn't have the tax base to generate huge hotel tax dollars like the Orlando area might.
The ABC group is working on six interim reports —- three to be presented today, and another three on Thursday. The group then intends to make presentations to the public and city and county government leaders.
The group's chairman, Jeff Lyash, has said he hopes to have final reports and possibly stadium recommendations late this year or early 2010. The group does not have the power to spend tax dollars. It was created as an advisory body in 2008 by St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker.