Concerned that city officials aren't being critical enough of the Tampa Bay Rays' plan to build a $450-million waterfront stadium downtown, a group of residents and community activists have banded together to defeat the proposal.
The founders of POWW, or Preserve our Wallets and Waterfront, say they plan to form a political action committee and raise money to campaign against the stadium.
"Our concern is we don't want the taxpayers to get screwed," said Hal Freedman, a downtown homeowner and founder of POWW. "It is all our land and all our money, and we don't want a corporation owned by millionaires to get it all."
Although other organizations have expressed concern about the proposed stadium, POWW is the first group to officially denounce the plan. Members argue a major league baseball stadium would eclipse other downtown venues, such as the Mahaffey Theater, and render parking downtown impossible. Also, they worry taxpayers will end up footing most of the bill.
City leaders said they welcome the scrutiny, even if they don't agree with POWW's stance that City Hall has been too soft on the Rays.
"When you have an organization the size of the Rays ask you for a request for proposal on an idea for a possible referendum in November, we are going to put it out there. Then it is up to the citizens to decide if they want it or not." said City Council Chairman Jamie Bennett.
Freedman said he felt compelled to do something about the proposal after city officials sent out a notice to developers nationwide asking for ideas on how to redevelop Tropicana Field without first allowing for public discussion. The redevelopment project would help pay for the proposed waterfront stadium, according to the Rays plan.
Freedman then sent out an e-mail to some friends criticizing the plan, and before he knew it, his message had been forwarded to dozens of people across the city that he didn't even know who were also opposed to the plan.
In January, the group held its first meeting, picked a name, set up a Web site and began the necessary paperwork to become a PAC.
Steven Lange, a St. Petersburg architect, said he joined the group because he felt the Rays' proposal to put the stadium referendum before voters in November seemed rushed.
"It seems to be on fast track for no good reason," he said.
POWW also plans to pass around a petition in support of converting Al Lang Field, the site of the proposed stadium, into parkland.
If it gets on the ballot and is approved, city officials would then have to hold a voter referendum before allowing any substantial development at the site.
Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or email@example.com.
About the group
For more information about Preserve our Wallets and Waterfront, check out www.stpetepoww.com.