An aerial view of Tropicana Field
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The search for a new baseball stadium in the Tampa Bay area took a tiny step forward Thursday evening.
St. Petersburg City Council invited a developer to present his stadium proposal for the Carillon Business Park area, just west of the Howard Frankland Bridge, off Ulmerton Road.
Council also invited the Rays, who have been cool to any new Pinellas developments, to attend.
TIMELINE: Rays Stadium Saga
Due to concerns that listening to the pitch from Darryl LeClair and his CityScape LLC could violate the terms of the use agreement between St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Rays, City Attorney John Wolfe was very involved in the process.
Wolfe worked with the developer to draw up a resolution that would allow CityScape to present its stadium concept, provided:
- CityScape would present to City Council in a public hearing
- The Pinellas Co. Commission would be invited
- Neither commissioners nor councilmembers would be allowed to ask questions during - or after - the presentation, but they could speak to developers on their own
- CityScape could speak to the media after the presenation, but could not speak to the Rays without permission from the city
The Rays were also challenged by the mayor to accept his proposed amendment from 2010 that would allow a new stadium to be considered in the Gateway/Carillon area instead of just within St. Pete city limits.
The Rays had no comment Thursday on the new developments.
Wolfe said councilmembers would have to remain quiet participants in the CityScape presentation out of fear they could inadvertantly cause legal problems for the city.
"What this does," Wolfe said, "is protect the integrity of our use agreement."
Wolfe also criticized the Tampa Bay Times for pushing St. Petersburg to let the Rays break their contract. He said giving up leverage would "open the door for Rays to leave the region."
Foster added that the Rays never responded to his offer to amend the use agreement in 2010.
Other council members expressed frustrations with the way the stadium saga was playing in the news. Councilman Wengay Newton said that when the Bucs can't sell out games, fans blame the economy; but when the Rays don't draw, it's because of location.
"I don't mean to pick a fight (with Tampa), but facts are facts." said Councilman Steve Kornell. "Our downtown is the envy of any downtown in the state of Florida."
Council chair Leslie Curran, who was the only member to vote against the resolution, was concerned that allowing one developer to present could open the floodgates for countless others. However, Foster said it would be a welcome outpouring.
"Anyone who has a St. Petersburg solution," Foster said, "I'd love to hear from."
"We would love to have these discussions with our Major-Leauge partners, but that just hasn't been possible."
The stadium presentation could take place as soon as a council meeting next month.