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Ruth: Developer's idea for Rays stadium at Channelside laughable

Whew! For a moment there I thought all that misbehavior from my college years was kicking in to induce some truly surreal flashbacks.

A flamboyant developer suddenly shows up and proposes a truly insane idea to transform the Channelside entertainment complex hinterland into a new home for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Was it possible I was having a Socco Babacus moment?

Longtime Tampa residents will remember Socco, who floated into town back in 1996, promising to build a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with his own money. Who does things like that?

Socco claimed to be a poor humble Greek bazillionaire from the Boston area, who had more ditzy ideas than common sense. On his frequent trips to Tampa he would often call to get together for lunch to show me his latest blueprint collection.

On one of his visits, I thought it might be a good idea if he met the Bombshell of the Balkans, who is fluent in Greek. Things did not go well.

The Marigold of Macy's attempted to converse in Athenian with Socco, who looked like a deer in the headlights. As it turned out, his Greek was probably worse than mine. And then there was this.

"He's not even Greek," the Sunflower of Saks sniffed. "Macedonian probably. He has blue eyes." Ah, beware of Macedonians bearing baloney.

So there was developer Joel Cantor with an idea to raze Channelside and replace it with a 33,000-seat stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays.

And yes, those were gales of laughter resonating across the city, which probably explains why the stadium idea might well have some legs. After all, Tampa is the place where crazy ideas go to mate.

Of course the whole Rays stadium gold rush is beginning to gain traction because: a) the team currently resides in the major-league equivalent of a double-wide and b) St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster's idea of negotiating with the Rays pretty much begins and ends with holding his breath.

So it is that others have stepped into the chasm between Foster's ears to offer ideas of their own to find a new place for grown men to spit and scratch themselves in unfortunate places.

There is one concept afoot to build a Rays palace in the greater Gateway area of Pinellas County. But to make that plan work it seems the team would have to share office and parking space with thousands of commuters. And thus game days could resemble the mass, chaotic evacuation scenes in Independence Day.

Enter Cantor. The developer would demolish Channelside and in its old footprint install the House That Too Much Vermouth Built. Well, at least someone is trying to think big. No harm in that.

But Cantor has a couple problems pulling off his Rays shuffle.

Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is supposedly very close to finalizing a deal to purchase and renovate Channelside. And though I have no idea of Cantor's net worth, it's probably not unreasonable to assume he does not want to get into a checkbook contest with the deep-pocketed Vinik.

As well, the Tampa Port Authority board also needs to approve any Channelside deal. And that laugh track hasn't stopped since Cantor unveiled his idea.

Still, until Foster realizes pouting is not a negotiating tactic, these trial balloons are going to continue to float over Tampa Bay, waiting, yearning, panting for the next Socco Babacus to book a flight to town.

Ruth: Developer's idea for Rays stadium at Channelside laughable 10/06/12 [Last modified: Saturday, October 6, 2012 4:30am]
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