Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: More urgency needed on Rays stadium search

The Tampa Bay Rays open their 20th season Sunday in sold-out Tropicana Field with new turf, new concessions (a $13 grilled cheese burger!?), new players — and a familiar discussion about prospects for a new stadium. By Opening Day in 2018, there should be a site selected for the next Rays ballpark and a general agreement on how to pay for it. The continuing uncertainty is unhealthy for the Rays and for a region that is enjoying a growth spurt but cannot afford to lose major-league baseball.

Rays owner Stuart Sternberg threw everyone a curve ball last week when he said the team's top locations for a new stadium are unavailable and the effort to find a site may stretch until the end of the year. That declaration sounded particularly concerning since the Rays have long acknowledged they have no room for error in choosing a site that has the best potential for this small-market franchise to ensure its long-term success. The last thing anyone wants is a repeat of the Miami Marlins, who settled for a less than desirable site for an expensive new stadium and still are not drawing as well as projected.

It turns out Sternberg's observations are less alarming than they initially sounded because of the sites he had in mind. In St. Petersburg, Al Lang Stadium and Albert Whitted Airport are gorgeous locations along the downtown waterfront but were never viable options. The same is true in Hillsborough County, where a mixed-use project already is under construction near the Hillsborough River; Jefferson High School in Tampa's West Shore District is not going to be moved; and an apartment complex is planned for the too-small parcel that was the Tampa Tribune's home. Those always were fields of dreams.

The reality is that each potential stadium site has benefits and drawbacks, from size to views to accessibility to potential funding sources. Still on the table are Tampa Park Apartments between downtown and Ybor City in Hillsborough County, and perhaps other sites that could be assembled in roughly the same area. In Pinellas County, the Derby Lane dog track along Gandy Boulevard has not been ruled out, and there remains interest among some officials in other privately owned property in mid Pinellas.

As expected, the Tropicana Field site in downtown St. Petersburg looks more attractive the more the challenges are exposed at other sites. The 85 acres are publicly owned, and St. Petersburg and private consultants have developed a master development plan both with and without a stadium. The Rays could share the proceeds from redevelopment, and it seems increasingly apparent that the most appealing stadium plan regardless of location would include public money, a significant investment by the Rays — and money from another private source tied to adjacent development. Whether team owners in larger markets who have been subsidizing the Rays through Major League Baseball's revenue-sharing system would be satisfied with a new stadium on the Tropicana Field site that has ranked at the bottom in attendance is another question.

Mayor Rick Kriseman achieved a major accomplishment last year by breaking a yearslong stalemate and winning City Council approval of an agreement with the Rays to look for stadium sites in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. But that agreement expires at the end of next year, and there has been little public progress in the last 15 months. Frankly, all sides sound a bit frustrated, and the broader Tampa Bay community should be more engaged.

This could be a quiet period as more work gets done behind the scenes, and the public often doesn't respond forcefully until there is a full-blown crisis on an issue that has been simmering. Yet as another baseball season opens, there should be a greater sense of urgency to identify and move forward on a stadium site by the end of the year. There is no time clock in baseball, but on the stadium debate you can hear one ticking.

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Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has begun the important work of rebuilding trust with its patients and the community following revelations of medical errors and other problems at its Heart Institute. CEO Dr. Jonathan Ellen candidly acknowledges...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
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Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

Editorial: St. Petersburg recycling worth the effort despite cost issues

St. Petersburg’s 3-year-old recycling program has reached an undesirable tipping point, with operating costs exceeding the income from selling the recyclable materials. The shift is driven by falling commodity prices and new policies in China that cu...
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Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Editorial: HUD’s flawed plan to raise rents on poor people

Housing Secretary Ben Carson has a surefire way to reduce the waiting lists for public housing: Charge more to people who already live there. Hitting a family living in poverty with rent increases of $100 or more a month would force more people onto ...
Published: 05/15/18
Updated: 05/18/18