You know, it is funny. I wrote my last entry about the possible community firestorm created when Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan requested to “take a meeting” with the A Baseball Community (ABC) Coalition, and even then something did not smell right to me at the time. I was hoping it was just the sea decay of a usual low tide down here near the Rivera Bay bridge, but now I know the real cause of that nasal nausea came from a few miles more to the east, and to the north of the Spiltsville bowling alley in the Channelside District of Tampa.
And the funny part is that I, like so many others in this community, were watching Hagan’s motives and I completely missed the “double-steal” attempt when other Tampa land developers snuck into second base standing up, and launched a plan completely under our noses.I had a weird gut feeling a few days ago that the Downtown Tampa real estate movers and shakers hiding behind the vacant condo high rise towers and empty Channelside storefronts had something concieved and total hidden up their collective sleeves.
Hagan’s deceptive song and dance look more like the “Boot, Scootin’ Boogie” and caught most of us not expecting such a large scale deception to be sign, sealed, but not delivered yet to be totally organized quite so fast, but then again you do not get rich off downtown real estate in this economy unless you send a few smoke signals out, or even knock on a few real estate speculators doors with cashor blank checks in your briefcase.
But I always expected some sort of blindsided move was going to be coming ever since ABC sent their final five stadium site recommendations to the printer. I just didn’t think they could mobilized so quickly after the mid-January ABC Coalition report came hot off the presses and into the general public’s hands. But then again, ever since this coalition was formed because the Tampa Bay Rays and the City of St. Petersburg wanting to show “just cause” to move forward to establish a dialogue for the discussion of a Rays new fangled stadium before their earliest possible 2015 vacate date, I knew someone already had some sort of building blueprints or artists renderings hidden somewhere in a safe place just waiuting for this moment.
And I am upset over the whole downtown Tampa stadium discussion, but I also could smell a rat coming in this stadium endeavor for some time. And maybe we all got taken in by the initial diversion of Hagan and his quest to get an audience with the leaders of the ABC coalition, and it definitely turned in another possible direction when a real estate developer began flashing around plans and conceptions for an entertainment complex centered with a large development building that looks auspiciously like a retractable roof baseball stadium within sight of the Crosstown Expressway.
And maybe I was especially caught off guard today and was centering my attention on the fact that Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig was in St. Petersburg, Florida tonight to take part in the annual Governor’s Dinner to “officially” signal the beginning of the Grapefruit League and Spring Training held last night under the Teflon dome of Tropicana Field.
Selig has been more vocal in the past than current Rays owner Stuart Sternberg as to the Rays needing a new facility so they could get the economical advantages of MLB-sponsored events like an All-Star game and its 3-day festivities, and that their current home, Tropicana Field would never be the game site of such a gala celebration by Major League Baseball.
Also quite enlightening was a comment by Hillsborough County Commissioner Rose Ferlita in that same Times article that ” Any action by the (MLB) Commissioner could be used as leverage in their discussions with St. Petersburg.” Got to admit, I never saw this one coming, Sun Tzu would have been extremely proud of this maneuver.
And one of the hidden corporate commando’s in this undercover operation seems to be a Charlotte County real estate company which normally seems to handle a majority of rural land transactions, and is based out of Marco Island, Florida. It was a simulated Black Ops strike that was unwillingly discovered when Land and Sand Realty President Claire Clements began circulating a draft of the initial plans with her company’s letterhead on the documents. But even with this sudden development in downtown Tampa, the deal is far from reality right now.
Basically some of the land that might have to be allocated for the property is currently owned by the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority and would need prior governmental approval to rubberstamp any tract of that land to the proposed “entertainment complex” project. But there are a few signs that the developers of this project did take into consideration the view Rays baseball fans would have when the roof is open to the night skies. The stadium renderings in the initial drawings show it would face north and west, so the crowd would get a well-lit cityscape backdrop along the lines of Cleveland’s cityscape that is a great aspect to Progressive Field,or Seattle’s Safeco Field.
But the biggest difference would be that Tampa’s skyscrapers would play a prominent role in this locations appeal to both baseball, and possibly the Rays. And believe me, this latest twist to the Rays stadium saga probably did not come as a shock to Rays Vice President of Development and Business Affairs Michael Kalt. Now do not read into this any collusion or tampering, but something like this doesn’t go unnoticed within the circle of community leaders without a few whispers in the dark among the region’s power brokers.
And with the enclusion of Tampa getting a huge series of bonus points recently for possibly stationing a center to the proposed “bullet train” within a few miles of this project, along with the already employed eletric railcar system within the downtown region, ABC might become as easy as 1,2,3 to connect the dots soon to give this downtown Tampa project and early lead in the future stadium discussions. And I find it quite amazing that certain property owners of some of the parcels in and around that proposed complex have taken basically a “code of silence” in reference to any discussion of their tracts and this proposal being shopped around Tampa.
Landowners like Salvatore Italiano and the W.D.F. Enterprises have shirked the Times reporters’ questions, which always is a sign to watch their movements. Forty-One Corp. and Conagra Corporation also owns a tracts of land just beyond the north rim of the present Channelside District.
But it is so early for even this one proposal to gather real solid energy and long-lasting strength right now, but with the downtown Tampa plans hitting the newspaper websites within the next few hours, you can be sure there will be a mountain of public opinion popped out there to either fuel the fires or smother them out for a while.
I have to say for a long time I have been against this downtown Tampa proposed site and I even am aghast of its possible logistics in regards to parking and traffic flow after a game, but then again, I had the same fears with the St. Petersburg Times Forum, built in this same area years ago when the Tampa Bay Lightning left Tropicana Field for their new home in downtown Tampa..
But maybe after being beaten in the head a few times over the past two months, the realistic fears of this team some day moving across the Howard Franklin Bridge is becoming more and more viable. I still might not be happy or even condusive to that happening, but it is growing on me.
And that plain fact kills me inside. I guess more and more of this previously “quiet” project will come out before the end of Spring Training and both sides of the bay will begin to align themselves with their own branishments of public opinion and alternative solutions or resolutions to this Rays stadium situation. Maybe I am showing some of my Southern naïve nature by thinking this issue might have realistically been tabled for a bit by both sides of the Tampa Bay, and again brought back into the sunlight to go full effect in 2012 or 2013.
Believe me, we have just seen the beginning of the underbelly of this whole downtown Tampa proposal and its own brand of apparent resolution to the Rays impending stadium issue. But when website like www.BuildItDowntownTampa.org starts to get some of the Tampa area public opinion rolling, this issue might begin to gain some unneeded attention right now and steamroll quickly into a feverish pitch. Hopefully this does not happen, but we only have to look at the Chicago White Sox situation to remember that sometimes thing move quickly and beyond our control in regards to baseball.
There is even another Tampa area group who also counts former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco among their membership who are currently also drawing up plans and development ideas concerning the present Florida State Fairground enormous acreage, which was another one of the final five sites brought up by the ABC coalition report. So this stadium issue is just beginning to heat up, and there will be more surprises and deviant twists and turns before it is all said and done. But like I mentioned yesterday, could this pull our Tampa Bay region apart, or could it bring us closer together?
But I guess we can truly say we know what Major League Baseball thinks as MLC Commissioner Selig was asked again by the Times on Wednesday night about a new Rays stadium and he first spoke his usual “company line” policy statement that the ” Rays will need a new stadium before their current contract at Tropicana Field expires”. But then Selig also added to the Times article Wednesday night, ” It almost boggles my mind that there is room for debate. They need a new stadium.”
And even with this Kalt has been mum and quiet about any of these discussions or progressions on the Tampa-side of the bay. The Rays still have to chat with their current landlord (St. Petersburg) before considering any other options. But for some reason, I think their discussion with St. Petersburg will take some time and with that political tugs of war will develop between several groups, which might give the Tampa area developers and the downtown Tampa planners more than enough time to line up prospective financiers’ and maybe throw a huge bonus bone of needing less public funds towards the Rays to entice them more…….in the future.