Sunday, June 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Exploring the options for aging Al Lang stadium

Tampa Bay Rowdies owner Bill Edwards is right. Al Lang Stadium in downtown St. Petersburg is well past its prime and in serious need of a makeover. But city officials are also right to push back on the notion of making an immediate major reinvestment that makes little sense. The stadium's future should be on the table as the city drafts its Downtown Waterfront Master Plan. The stadium's current condition is unacceptable, but options range from a significant renovation to demolition and creating more green space along the waterfront.

It took just five months for Edwards to go from announcing he was the new controlling owner of the Rowdies to threatening he might move the soccer team if Al Lang's condition doesn't improve and the team has to keep sharing the stadium with baseball. City officials say they have been addressing some valid complaints by the Rowdies, from the condition of the turf to broken seats. But Mayor Rick Kriseman's spokesman says the stadium's use as a venue for baseball won't change. Complicating the discussion is that a nonprofit group, the St. Petersburg Baseball Commission, which organizes the St. Petersburg International Baseball schedule, has a contract to maintain the facility.

The broader question is what Al Lang should look like in the future — if it exists at all. A hundred years after spring baseball arrived in the city and eventually departed Al Lang for more modern stadiums and large training facilities elsewhere in Florida, it looks more likely that the future holds a broader purpose for the site and should not be dictated by any one interest.

Supporters of the Dalí Museum, for example, have long suggested the Al Lang site might be converted to parkland and allow for the extension of Beach Drive south, with additional retail and restaurants. Outside experts from the Urban Land Institute recommended late last year that the city redevelop the site into a multifunctional space for sports as well as art, music and markets — in part to take pressure off Vinoy Park to host so many large events.

The institute called for eliminating the stadium parking lot and altering streets to the east and south to so-called "convertible streets" that can easily be shut down for events. Whether that includes a configuration for a professional sports team, soccer or otherwise, was not specified.

Those are just two ideas, but they should not be the only ones. The City Council is set to soon approve a contract for a consultant to help draft the waterfront master plan.

Any major decisions on Al Lang should be vetted through that process — though Kriseman should make sure the stadium's caretaker meets its obligations to make Al Lang adequate for the Rowdies' use this season. And Edwards should be patient. With former Mayor Rick Baker on his staff, Edwards should have had few illusions about what buying a soccer team with a contract to play at Al Lang until 2016 could mean.

A century after the city took a bold move to attract baseball, it stands at another crossroads with Al Lang. Neither history nor short-term complaints should narrow the discussion about what should come next on this prime piece of the downtown waterfront.

Comments
Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Itís hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bayís two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. Thatís the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18