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St. Petersburg: Private developer doesn't have to pitch stadium plan at City Hall

Published Sep. 7, 2012

ST. PETERSBURG — The field has been finally set to show a proposal for a new baseball stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays.

City Council voted 6-2 Thursday to allow a private developer to make his stadium pitch at a Hilton hotel in the Carillon area. The meeting is set for Sept. 28, tentatively at 1:30 p.m.

Council Chair Leslie Curran and member Jeff Danner voted against the location, saying taxpayer business should be conducted at City Hall.

CityScape, a firm owned by prominent real estate developer Darryl LeClair, had requested a bigger venue for making the pitch to the Tampa Bay Rays and city leaders.

Council member James Kennedy pushed for the venue move since LeClair spent his money on the stadium designs and traffic studies.

"He should have the opportunity to make the presentation the way he wants," Kennedy said. "They deserve the courtesy to present this in the form and manner they desire."

During a city workshop last week, several council members balked at moving the meeting.

Officials expect 300 people at the meeting, which Rays officials have said they will attend. The County Commission also has been invited.

The meeting will be recorded for the city's television station, but not broadcast live.

Curran thanked LeClair for coming up with plans and stressed that movement must occur on the stalemate between the city and the team over a new stadium.

"We have been in the dugout too long," she said. "We need to step up to the plate."

CityScape wants to build the stadium in the Carillon business park just west of the Howard Frankland Bridge in the Gateway area. LeClair controls roughly 12 acres of vacant land there where a stadium could fit.

During the public presentation, neither the council nor the public will be allowed to ask questions.

Once the pitch is over, council members are free to meet with CityScape about the plans, said City Attorney John Wolfe.

He fears that council members could make public statements that could be used by the Rays in litigation if the team decides to break its contract to play at Tropicana Field.

"I don't want CityScape to be talking to the Rays," Wolfe said. "It all has to do with protecting the integrity of the agreement."

Wolfe classified the CityScape presentation as a "special council meeting."

The location doesn't matter since the group can't ask questions, said council member Charlie Gerdes, adding: "We'll only be listening."

The fate of CityScape's plans depends on how the Rays perceive the pitch.

The team has said it will attend the meeting as a courtesy but won't consider any site unless the team can explore options throughout the entire Tampa Bay region.

Wolfe said he hopes the team finds CityScape's plan thorough and enticing.

"They better have a financing plan," he said. "They better have drawings. What else are they going to pitch?"


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