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UPDATE: Mayoral candidates talk Rays

9:59 AM, Jul 31, 2009   |    comments
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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida - Several months after 10 Connects first asked the six frontrunners in the St. Petersburg mayor's race for their thoughts on a new Rays stadium, the same candidates were asked to react to the initial findings from the ABC Coalition and - once again - what steps they favor in keeping baseball in Tampa Bay long-term.

10 Connects compares the leading candidates to each other and compares how some platforms have changed since May.

Previous Coverage:
7/17/09 - REPORT: Group releases first findings on Rays
7/10/09 - REPORT: Fans launch campaign to move Rays to Tampa
7/3/09 - BLOG: How the Rays' stadium saga will go down
6/16/09 - REPORT: Renovating The Trop too expensive
5/22/09 - BLOG: Location, Location, Location
5/8/09 - REPORT: Mayoral candidates debate Rays

Jamie Bennett, City Councilman
May '09:
Wants privately-funded stadium built in conjunction with a new light rail station downtown.  Voter referendum not necessary. Believes St. Pete officials will have to fight to keep the Rays.
July '09 : Not convinced ABC findings are accurate when it comes to Tropicana Field's inconvenient location or high cost of repair.  Believes The Trop can be retro-fit for long-term viability.
Shift: No longer implying a new stadium is necessary to keep Rays, now saying investments in Tropicana Field would be the way to go.

Kathleen Ford, Former City Councilwoman
May '09:
Priority is to enforce current contract that goes until 2027. New stadium should only be built if voters approve a referendum.
July '09: Tropicana Field "works just fine" and she'll enforce the team's current use agreement through 2027. No new stadiums without voter approval.
Shift: None. If anything, Ford (a lawyer) is drawing a harder line when it comes to enforcing the current deal.

Bill Foster, Former City Councilman
May '09:
Says a new stadium is a priority or the team will leave sometime after 2016. Rebuilding on current site is preference, but if the team doesn't want to stay downtown, he could live with Gateway. Tampa is not an option.
July '09 : Downtown needs to remain a priority, but if a new stadium is to be built, elsewhere in St. Pete is preferable to losing team to another city.
Shift: Little. Playing it safe by keeping all options within city open, but backing off the urgency of building team a new stadium.

Deveron Gibbons, AMSCOT executive
May '09:
Believes Rays will leave in 2016 if they don't get a new stadium but voters need to decide(via referendum) if they want to commit money to a new stadium.
July '09 : Respects ABC findings but thinks obstacles to downtown could be remedied with light rail and transportation solutions.  If downtown won't work, would consider other locations within city limits.
Shift: Very little. Hesitant to offer solutions, but seemingly open to anyone's ideas. Like Foster, backing off his previously-mentioned urgency of 2016.

Scott Wagman, Former Scott Paint CEO
May '09:
Prefers to keep the team in St. Pete and put a new stadium before a voter referendum, but says letting the team go to a Mid-Pinellas site outside city limits is better than losing them to another city.
July '09 : Acknowledges the ABC findings and would consider a North St. Pete site to better suit the team down the road.  Also addressed working with the county since its pockets are much deeper than the city's.
Shift: None. Wagman was the first candidate to accept a mid-Pinellas/Gateway possibility and the ABC findings give him reason to stay the course.

Larry Williams, Former City Councilman
May '09:
Says baseball is too important to St. Pete's economy to risk losing it.  Would consider other locations in city if downtown absolutely won't work.  Voter referendum isn't always in city's best interest.
July '09 : Refutes the ABC findings, saying Downtown St. Pete is in fact a viable place for a baseball team to play. Key to helping team long-term is to support them now and make them feel welcome.  If a new stadium is necessary, it needs to be downtown.
Shift: Actually going in opposite direction of ABC's suggestions. Says team doesn't need a new park and team doesn't need to leave downtown.


Note
: All candidates agree that a waterfront stadium is no longer an option and that the ideal situation would be the Rays staying in Downtown St. Petersburg as long as possible.

St. Pete voters will chose a replacement to Mayor Rick Baker either by mail-in ballot or at the polls this fall.  The primary is September 1, 2009, with the two top overall vote-getters advancing to the general election on November 3, 2009.

You can follow 10 Connects reporter Noah Pransky on Twitter at www.twitter.com/noahpransky or Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Noah-Pransky/95411107517.

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