Monday, December 11, 2017
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: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasnít enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, itís looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17

Editorial: St. Petersburg should raise rates for reclaimed water

Raising rates on reclaimed water in St. Petersburg is an equitable way to spread the pain of paying for millions in fixes to the cityís dilapidated sewer system. The city has no choice but to start charging utility customers more as the sewer bills c...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17