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CLEARWATER, Florida - The ABC Coalition made its first public presentation since concluding its year-long report on how to keep baseball in Tampa Bay long-term, but don't expect the Rays stadium saga to end anytime soon.
The Coalition presented its findings to the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) in Pinellas Co. on Tuesday, but the board's comments were limited on the advice of the county attorney.
The City of St. Petersburg, the county's partner in hosting the Rays, sent a letter to a number of parties reminding them that legal action was a possibility if they interferred with the current use agreement, which runs through 2027.
County Commissioner Ken Welch said the legal threat was "frustrating," but he understood and there was no rush at this point.
St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster said - contrary to popular opinion - he wasn't ignoring the issue and had reached out the Rays.
"My door is open," Foster said. "Right now, (the Rays) haven't approached (long-term talks)."
Rays Senior Vice President Michael Kalt said in an email that the team was just focused on the start of the season for now.
"We are grateful to the members of the ABC Coalition for the time they've spent studying the challenges we face," Kalt said. "And we support their efforts to brief various stakeholders throughout the region on their findings. (But) until that work is completed, we're content to let the process play itself out."
Foster added that the city "doesn't require an official presentation from the ABC Coalition," a group his predecessor, Rick Baker, helped charter in 2008. But he said he had read the group's final report and it had some good data the city may be able to use down the road.
"I'm going to speak loudly so they can hear us down there in St. Pete," said ABC Coalition member Craig Sher at the start of the presentation to the BOCC. The comment was a light-hearted jab at the city that ex-communicated the Coalition in recent months.
Sher also recapped the well-publicized flaws of Tropicana Field and improvements that the team is looking for in a long-term home.
Welch said he was still confident the team will stay in Pinellas Co., with hope the Toytown landfill in North St. Pete would be a possibility. Toytown is an attractive plot of land near the intersection of Roosevelt Blvd. and I-275, but environmental concerns first need to be addressed.
But with the ball in the Rays' court, the process will likely take a while. Hillsborough Co. Commissioner Ken Hagen expressed an interest in hearing the ABC findings too, but the group only has a few other scheduled presentations right now. They include the St. Pete Chamber of Commerce on Mar. 19 and the Pinellas Co. Tourist Development Council on April 14.
Follow 10 Connects reporter Noah Pransky on Twitter at www.twitter.com/noahpransky, Facebook at www.facebook.com/noahpransky, or on his Sports vs. News blog, Shadow of the Stadium.
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Noah Pransky, 10 Connects