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Downtown built on strengths beyond baseball

Risk vs. reward | June 1, Perspective story

St. Petersburg built on strengths beyond baseball
In Sunday's article, Tim Nickens hints that much of downtown's success came with risks associated with building the stadium. I disagree. Before then, many influencing forces set the stage for even greater investments to follow, including baseball. These forces include the cumulative effects of natural growth trends toward downtowns, demographic shifts, a hot national economy and expanding regional markets. It is disturbing then to listen to advocates for extending risk when previous arguments were built on doubtful assumptions. Such assumptions miss valid arguments and evidence to the contrary.

The Times has in the last 10 years reported the findings of several studies that question claims that major-league franchises benefit communities that pay for the privilege of having them. The essence of these reports is that disposable income within any community is limited, so fans either spend money on sports or something else.

However, the most glaring evidence that other factors, not baseball, contributed to downtown's rise is the fact that baseball has had no measurable benefit to the businesses closest to Tropicana Field. So if they haven't benefited, how can we say downtown has?

Then what explains downtown's success? Perhaps everything but baseball. How about the natural beauty of, preservation and expansion of our waterfront park system; the gradual re-emergence of retail along Beach Drive, Central Avenue and pockets throughout downtown; Jannus Landing as a venue for entertainment; expansion of museums/cultural offerings; institutions of higher learning; and the essential public infrastructure (parking).

In short, the cumulative effect of many small and moderate investments, made over 20-plus years, has produced conditions that attract developers, residents and visitors. Baseball may have had some effect, but current and future benefits are hard to quantify.

So, despite exciting redevelopment opportunities, I don't believe baseball warrants continuing old risks. To think so ignores our strengths.

And if baseball is to be part of this city's quality of life, if the Tropicana site is to be redeveloped without cannibalizing other opportunities, then better community planning processes must be implemented.

John Warren, St. Petersburg

Risk vs. reward | June 1, Perspective story

Remember the last time

Tim Nickens would have us reach for the brass ring once again and build a new waterfront stadium. But what did we get when the St. Petersburg City Council reached for it last time around? Little of the projected development and, after 10 years, a baseball team whose owners are now asking the taxpayers to foot most of the bill to tear down the 20-year-old stadium and build a new, single-use stadium, which will sit empty most of the year, on a prime downtown location poorly suited to such a facility.

The audacity of the proposal is stunning. If the City Council voted to tear down City Hall 20 years after it had been built and construct a new one in a "better" location, there would be hell to pay. But it's okay if public funding goes to support a private sports franchise in such a manner? If the new stadium gets built, I can't wait to hear what the owners will be asking taxpayers to do for them in 10 years.

Brian Corey, St. Petersburg

Let stadium debate play out | June 1, editorial

A package deal

I have no dog in this fight, but as stadium co-developer with Judge Hoffheinz of Houston and Ed Cottrell of Buffalo, N.Y., I wish to expand everyone's thinking, generate the numbers that will justify this effort, create jobs, improve the quality of life, and electrify the community for the world to take notice.

We all know that use determines value. Developers allocate a dollar cost per unit for land use in a given market location. It's simple to play with various model components of residential, retail, office, hotel and parking until you reach a value that meets Rays owner Stuart Sternberg's equation.

Having I-275 means that all roads lead to this site. That's a big plus. But for upscale development, you would need a location with a waterfront, museum, arts center, convention center, library, live theater, college campus. The issue is lifestyle amenities. The answer is to redefine the geographic boundaries to include all of the above as well as a new waterfront stadium with 100 event days.

You can transfix a people mover within the rights of way of I-175, I-375, and I-275 extending to a downtown loop via Beach Drive, with stops at the stadium, entertainment, government, educational, medical, museums, yacht club, pier, restaurants, and the like. Obviously parking and traffic would no longer be a problem.

Bryan McGuire, Clearwater

Stadium lacks champion | May 31, story

Why boost a bad idea?

The stadium lacks a champion among local elected leaders because it is a really bad idea for the citizens of St. Petersburg who lose public land and pay most of the cost to benefit a few out-of-state millionaire owners. Home run for the Rays ownership. Strike out for the citizens.

Pete Brown, St. Petersburg

Project etiquette | May 25, story

Too many bad examples

This story was about the Just Elementary Ladies and Gentlemen's Club and the efforts to teach good manners. At a young impressionable age many years ago, I went to the Saturday matinees in our one-theater town. Movies were much more genteel back then and one thing that caught my fancy was the polite manners and impeccable speech of the English actors.

I sure wanted to be like them but could never overcome my down-South accent, and still haven't, but I have tried to emulate their good manners. The movies in those days had great dialogue with no profanity, something lost on today's moviemakers.

How can we expect our children to learn good manners, sort out their differences and get along with others when all they are exposed to are bad examples? The Just Elementary experiment seems a good start in bringing back some civility.

Jack Peel, Tampa

Reassess energy policies

Does anyone feel they are watching their future pass before their eyes as they watch the price of food, oil, and gas skyrocket? Do we have to sit idly by while people starve, businesses fail, and the U.S. economy teeters on the edge before plunging into a deep dark hole because of these superhigh costs?

I hope our policies of trying to reduce global warming, making ethanol out of corn, not drilling off the coast of Florida, etc., can stand up to the test of time. Clearly they are making the current situation worse. Are we really, really focusing on the right things for our nonexistent energy policy? Perhaps its time for another look.

Rick Shale, Homosassa

Downtown built on strengths beyond baseball 06/03/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 4, 2008 2:30pm]
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