Rays put waterfront stadium plans on hold

4:59 PM, Jun 25, 2008   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida - It's a good day for the citizens group that's been fighting against a new waterfront ballpark.

"It's happy in that what we've been advocating for months appears to actually be happening, which is to take a breather, think about alternatives," said Hal Freedman with POWW, Preserve Our Wallets and Waterfront.

The Rays have spent the past seven months promoting their plans for a new $450-million ballpark on the site of Al Lang Field. And just last week, St. Petersburg City Council selected a developer for the Tropicana Field site.

But persistent concerns about the stadium location, financing, and timetable convinced President Matt Silverman to put the project on hold.

"And while we still believe in the vision we first put forth seven months ago, and of its transformational value, today we are withdrawing our proposal and we will not longer be seeking a referendum on the waterfront ballpark," said Silverman.

Instead the Rays will work with a community coalition formed to secure baseball's future in St. Petersburg and Pinellas County. Progress Energy CEO Jeff Lyash is the new coalition chairman.

"I would expect that we would get a quick start, meaning we won't be idle for weeks, we'll begin rather promptly," said Lyash.

Former St. Petersburg City Council member Bill Foster says he asked the Rays to delay their plans several weeks ago. The Rays say Foster and others convinced them to pull the current plan for a new waterfront stadium.

"All of those issues, parking transportation, the heat, the impact on the arts, the impact on downtown all of those issues go away. It's a good day," said Foster.

Mayor Rick Baker was also instrumental in getting the Rays to hold off on a November referendum. Rays President Matt Silverman says the decision was made Sunday after talking with the Mayor and others.

So the effort to build a new stadium for the Rays starts over, but right now no telling where it will be built, or when.

Dave Balut, Tampa Bay's 10 News

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