Results tagged ‘ ABC Coalition ’

Will Tampa Bay Divide Again?



Really Hillsborough County Commission? You really want to step on these collective St. Petersburg and Pinellas County toes again? Just because this side of the bay is envisioned daily wearing mostly Docker shorts and inexpensive flip flops and spending most of their downtime hanging out at beach bars drinking fruity drinks with umbrellas, can you seriously considering this hot potato of controversy was not going to divide this region’s opinions again. By considering to even ask for a formal powwow with the A Baseball Community (ABC) Coalition to speak to your own divided HCC membership on this issue seems to be amateurish at best.


And it might be helpful for your ultimate goal HCC Chairman Ken Hagan, if you had every one of your HCC Commissioners’ on board with you in advance. I know I personally think it stupid and frowned upon when your own group has a division within its own house before you commit to anything, but then again, that might not be your style of leadership. Funny how HCC Commissioner Jim Norman comment to the St Petersburg Times recently that ” He’s (Hagan) not speaking for me”, might speak volumes that this might be more of a newspaper/media shout-out crusade by you for some free press and attention when your own county’s finances and future sport ventures revenues might be in a tight knit ball with no strings left dangling.


Are you really going to try and throw your County’s already smug “superiority complex” out there for everyone else to see? Or will you say you are “doing your job” by claiming you are doing due diligence on the Rays stadium issue by trying to get an preliminary discussion going with the ABC Coalition, which has no political pull or remote chance of being a key player in any future discussions of this stadium deal. And did you forget something remember Mr. Hillsborough County Commission Chairman, especially now in this down economic climate, money talks and B S walks, even within a city considered a even Southern folks to be a “cow town” until as recently as 1990.


Until today, your agency has been playing it smart by sitting back and letting all the dust settle on the Tampa Bay Rays stadium issue. So why is it right now, when the focus should be on the influx of Major League Baseball players about to arrive and begin to fill the county business coffer’s and housing vacancies in our regional community that you want to tip over the apple cart and start a controversy and ultimate division of the region……..again. Oh! You think most of us have not forgotten the sorted past power struggles for control of Tampa Bay baseball between the Sharks (Morsani) and the Jets (Namoli) posses’ proclaiming our own version the epic “West Side Story” doing their own improvisational song and dance towards getting the region’s first taste of MLB-quality baseball?


How embarrassing it was for us as Tampa Bay area citizens to watch as two separate Tampa Bay Baseball groups considered themselves superior and collectively converged upon MLB as separate business entities to try and seducing the MLB power brokers during the first round of expansion site considerations and verbally sparred in the media and tried to constantly downgraded the other to show a visible key weakness of community division in the Tampa Bay area’s quest for baseball. That neither of the area’s groups even ventured into the expansion discussions with the MLB hierarchy with the same agenda points showed the deep division by the region, and not only by the saltwater that separated the two battling communities.

That first attempt became a complete and utter fiasco and the first expansion team in Florida ended up being awarded to another Florida group poised down Miami way because our two communities were doing their rendition of the Hatfield’s and the McCoys and canceled each other out by internal regional fisticuffs. The MLB leadership seemed to find it unnerving and utterly shallow that the two Tampa Bay groups were fighting for this one region’s team, and no compromises from either group was on the horizon. And it was not until each side of the bay ultimately agreed and considered that the Namoli baseball group out of St. Petersburg might have the necessary political and baseball clout to impress and regain MLB’s trust that the Tampa Bay region’s should be considered a viable location for baseball. Divided regional loyalties ceased and we collectively began the hunt to fight for a MLB team as one region.


How does your little political power play now by asking the ABC Coalition to chat with your group before they finish their rounds of discussions with the Pinellas County government agencies not constitute the basic element of tampering? How did you find a mindset of justify your pushing your collective political agenda forward with these actions being “okay” and not the usual sleezybag ” look at me” political mentality associated with an ultimate misplay of power by a government official. How soon is this school yard power play going to backfire into your faces like a kid with a firecracker on the Fourth of July? Did you even think of the massive repercussions of your request, or were you going to “play dumb” to the white noise that came from this action and hope support came running of unforeseen sources?


How can a leader of a county governmental agency who ultimately knows that his area’s finances are tied up neatly in a beautiful bow be so into discussing something they realistically can’t consider unless they want to possibly anger their own region’s citizens by asking them to tighten their belts a little tighter, or maybe even pull the sheepskins over their citizen’s eyes by imposing another bump in future sales taxes to even consider such a future power play. Has the HCC Chairman really been blunt and honest enough to Hillsborough’s own citizen to tell them that their possible finance options for such an future endeavor as seducing the Rays to their side of the bay might be unfathomable unless extreme measures were taken to secure even minimal finances for such a proposal.


Hagan can not say he is on his own “fact-finding mission”, that was the entire reason for the initial existence of the ABC Coalition in the first place, but it was to center on Pinellas County and St. Petersburg options towards future support of baseball, not expand its horizons over the bridge towards the eastern shore of the region. I think the Hillsborough community should be proud of the past HCC commitments to improving sports projects among their community made possible by them imposing the half-cent sales tax increase in the past to help fund projects like Raymond James Stadium and other sports ventures. And that theirs collective County revenue stream for such projects will be weakened until after 2026, which is beyond the current Rays stadium lease with the City of St. Petersburg.


And also maybe forgotten by Hagan was the Hillsborough County additional financial sports projects commitments made possible by their collection of an a hotel tax increase that helped financially secure the building of such venues as The Forum, the modernization of the Florida State Fairgrounds complex, upgrade to Raymond James Stadium and George Steinbrenner Field and will ultimately limit the HCC coffers in that aspect until 2035.

And it might be a shrewd move by Hagan to get some needed media attention towards this issue right as MLB prepares another Spring Training edition in 2010 within the Tampa Bay region. But it is so easy for people around this community to forget that the ABC coalition is only an “advisory committee”, and they can not move or even remotely consider moving the team or “green-light” any stadium project or location requests to anyone, even the Rays. People simply forget this Coalition is a third party entity started to dig deep into the Rays impending stadium issues and simply report their collective recommendations. They have no governmental power. That basic decision-making process still and always will, belong to the Rays and their landlord, the City of St. Petersburg until 2015 at the earliest.
And as we have learned about the Rays in the past, they do not show their cards often. And when they do, it is for a specific reason or to gather information or opinions. This issue is far from over, and we have not really heard more than a collective whisper out of the Rays camp about all of this since the ABC Coalition made their report final a few months ago. The conspiracy theorist mind inside me says a lot of this is already been decided and might be ready to go at a moment’s notice. But the other side of my mind tells me that the Rays might sit back and let both sides of the bay battle over this for a spell before finally revealing their own goals and thoughts on this entire process. As business minded and professional as the Rays organization has been under Stuart Sternberg, they have also been a bit predictable outside the player personnel aspects of the team. And even now, maybe a few cards have fallen from their deck of cards for a reason.


With the Rays about to “officially” unveil the new “Sunday” alternate jerseys on Wednesday with no “Tampa Bay” regional significance emblazoned over the front of their new “Sky Blue” color pallet jerseys, maybe the team is sending out early signals that this entire fiasco will be done in a business manner with no regards to communities or even social acceptance down the road. Maybe the Rays are setting up another scenario, a more concise and surgical approach that none of us will see coming, not even from our front porches looking towards the tilted forward roof of the Trop.


And the whole process of Hagan even asking for a chance to speak to the Coalition might have sent ripples through the region. The City of St. Petersburg is already on the defensive since the committee ultimately overstepped their initial set of guidelines and considered locations outside Pinellas County. And with these new calls from the east side of Tampa Bay wanting an audience to discuss the idea of Tampa Bay baseball can be viewed in many ways, with interesting twists all over the place. But unless the HCC as a group can shoot down any of the locations, or open their financial situation wide for all to see, this has to be just another wedge to force this region apart again with no healing in sight. This whole new Hillsborough County Commission situation just opens another wide open wound that needs a bandage quick before in gets infected and turns into another ugly mess. You can be sure I will keep my ears to the ground hoping to hear something new, and hopefully inspirational to everyone within Tampa Bay.

St. Petersburg City Council Begins Rays Stadium “Chess” game


Peter Masa

As so many of you might heard by now through my past entries, the ABC (A Baseball Community) Coalition, which was formed to collaborate and conduct research and possible recommendations for a new Tampa Bay Rays baseball stadium has made their final reports available on their committee’s future thoughts and location proposals about the possible financing and construction of a new stadium. And the Coalition were completely open to discussing these findings in depth with the St. Petersburg City Council, before a memo sent by the City Council makes the proposed meeting moot and pointless at this stage of the game.

For about the last 18 months, the ABC Coalition, which was composed of 11+ selected Tampa Bay community leaders and power brokers have met throughout that time to whittle down the expanding list of the potential “Who, where, when and why?” of the stadium issues and proposals before finalizing their report earlier this week. that might come up in future discussions and gave their opinions and finding to these matters. And just as the Coalition was ready to embark on a long Public Relations mission to discuss the finding with the St. Petersburg City Council, Pinellas County Commission and the Pinellas Visitor’s Bureau, and possibly the Hillsborough County governing bodies, the St. Pete City Council decided to send the first volley across the Coalition’s bow to show their disapproval of the Coalition’s final report.


Most people outside of the Tampa Bay region might not know that the two counties, Pinellas and Hillsborough, have fought back and forth for the last few decades on this entire baseball issue from Day 1. And because the Coalition expanded their site locations to include possible Hillsborough/Tampa stadium locations in their findings, this was considered a blow to the initial formation plan of the St. Petersburg city officials for the group to conduct their studies on possible St. Petersburg locations, with no mention of including Hillsborough County sites in their discussions.


It so offended the basic premise of the initial formalization this study group that St. Petersburg City Attorney John Wolfe and St. Petersburg Senior Administrator co-wrote a stern recent memorandum to the ABC Coalition stating the ” any relationship the city( St. Petersburg) may have had with ABC has been effectively severed.” And as I stated before in previous blog posts, this Chess match is just beginning to show it’s first moves and this issue is considered far from over, and the memo and cancellation of the group’s presentation to the St. Petersburg City Council might just be the first “Pawn’s movement” by local government on this issue.


Because the St. Petersburg City Council considers the Coalition a “third-party” representative in this manner, they may have openly invited discussions or discussed their findings possibly with the Rays before finalizing their report. That is a direct violation of the Rays lease with the City of St. Petersburg to not have a “third party” do the talking for the team. By contract, the Rays are forbidden from discussing any possible moves before their contracts expires “officially” in 2026. Because the Coalition liberally discussed possible stadium site and issues with the Rays.


And this might have put a bump in the road to further discussion by the Coalition with the City Council, but they are still more than willing to have discussions with the Rays in the future as to the team’s stadium requests….But not through a “third party” voice like the ABC Coalition. But what might also be irritating the St. Petersburg City Council might be the simple fact that there are no recorded minutes or notes of a possible discussion with the Rays to see what input or secondary requests the Rays might have requested from the Coalition to slip in their findings.



But this same ABC Coalition did not heed the constant warnings from the St. Petersburg City Council over the past 18 months to not discuss or even include possible Hillsborough County sites since this could be considered a direct violation of the Rays Tropicana Field contract. The memo sent by St. Petersburg City Attorney Wolfe also stated: “No third party should be interfering” with the Tropicana Field contract, the memo said. “The city should not condone or permit, directly or indirectly, any such third party interference.”

The fact that the Coalition took on the possibilities of including the Hillsborough County sites showed the true fact that the group extended their reach beyond the first scope of the Coalition and might have been possibly pushed that direction by another party, possibly the Rays.


St. Petersburg City Council Chairwoman Leslie Curran said she would not even consider putting the ABC presentation on the upcoming City Council’s meeting agenda. She stated to the St. Petersburg Times recently that the coalition “kind of took on a life of its own,” she said. “The purpose of it to begin with, as far as I understand, was to focus on St. Petersburg, and I’m not willing to bring any idea forward that goes outside the city.”

People outside this region forget that the formulation of this Coalition actually came on the heels of the Rays and the City of St. Petersburg trying to find common ground after opposition to the sail-inspired Rays stadium plans for the city’s waterfront which was met with a hailstorm of mixed reactions on the proposed stadium, and it’s site along the waterfront. This present ever expanding stalemate with the St. Petersburg governing body is just another setback for the Rays possible stadium ideas, and the inclusion of the two possible Tampa sites has both parties balking and searching for a suitable compromise.


This is just the first folly to come to light in the ever growing drama that will encompass the Rays seeking a possible stadium location and construction agreement in the next 5-10 years. Who knows if the Coalition’s finding are a non-evasive play by the Rays to see what opposition or bridges they might need to mend in further discussions with groups on either side of Tampa Bay.

If indeed it was a silent message sent by the Rays exploring options beyond St. Petersburg and Pinellas County, the St. Petersburg City Council made sure to let their legal and personal opinions ring loud and clear to the heavens. I have to say I am proud of the City Council standing up and not letting the ABC Coalition perform a “song and dance” routine in front of the City Council without full disclosure or upfront acknowledgement of their intentions.

Many times in the past we have seen civic groups bow low and take it on the chin for sports teams, or their hidden ploys to poke the bear in the room and see how angry he will get. Well, the ABC Coalition got their slap-in-the-face by the City of St. Petersburg. It will be fun to see how they readjust and either re-commit or fade away after this latest folly. Next up is a possible Pinellas County Commission whose bonds helped finance half of the initial funding for Tropicana Field via a Bed Tax. ABC is hoping for a presentation to this Commission possibly in March or April 2010. Who knows, maybe the PCC might also see a set of hands poking out from the back of the ABC Coalition’s spokesperson and call “foul” themselves. …. Anything is possible in politics.


Lone Pinellas Site Perfect for Rays Stadium

For years during my many roadtrips to and from Tampa, Florida back towards Pinellas County and St. Petersburg my eyes have always seemd to focus towards this dense and swampy parcel of land just outside my passenger window always questioning why some developer had not previously built something amazing on this prime real estate parcel.  And it simply astonished me that this parcel of tall grass was not being held vacant because of the salt water intrusion or the mangroves thickets lining the southern most edges of the parcel, but for some other cosmic solution. 

Sure I had seen a few scattered rental communities and office buildings spring up just off this uneven and water-soaked parcel, but even with the distant encroachment of modern civilization, this one huge pact of land has remained pretty consistant and dormant for several decades. And even as I stare quickly scanning this large parcel, my wild imagination used to rush a bit and tried to envision what could one day be built upon this land and maybe  become a welcoming beacon of this community to any traveler cruising Southbound on I-275 just beyond the Ulmerton Road and 9th Street exit ramps towards the hamlets of mid Pinellas County or St. Petersburg.

Why had this massive singular parcel with stood the rush of greed and money and had somehow been sparred by the decades of real estate speculation and explosions to remain clear and free of development? Had there been a wise or (hopefully) missed decision by someone stuck somewhere within an office building without windows to not build, sell or even excavate and level this lush green segment just off the southern tip of the Howard Franklin bridge. Was it held instead by a sly developer or real estate mastermind for the future, and an endeavor of great magnitude unforseen by the region’s citizens for so long.

Could someone had visualized so far into the past that this same parcel could one day  be the site of a great architectural symbol of this Florida region built upon its sandy soil and forever be known throughout the  baseball world for its construction on this very site? That it would house the benchmark in green technology and also embrace the surrounding mangroves and oyster beds to showcase that man and nature could co-exsist, even with the intrusion of sports just beyond the tide pools?

And maybe it was a blessing that finally on Monday, the A Baseball Community (ABC) coalition began to finally bring to light some of their year long discussions and meetings to finalize their detailed report to the local Tampa Bay communities on the future of  Major League Baseball and the Tampa Bay Rays franchise in this area. And it was real big surprise to me and maybe most of Tampa Bay, that two out of the three recommended locales for a stadium were within the confines of Hillsborough County.  

It really did not surpise me in the least that the lone plot of land even being considered for a recommendation by the ABC Coalition on the Pinellas side of the bridge was this lone sandlot of land that might have been held for just this purpose in hindsight. That the miracle that this plot did not go under the blades of a bulldozer or excavator before now is simple unimaginable to me. And for the sake of total honest here, this same parcel of soil was my personal choice for the building of a baseball stadium site back in the late 1980’s when the discussion first came up for the site of the then Florida Suncoast Dome/Thunderdome/Tropicana Field.

Finally it is so wild that this little preserved parcel of land might some day  might be considered to produce the centerpiece building or stae-of-the-art facility this region has been seeking for the Rays and this community as a whole for so long. And it is still a bit mindboggling to me that this parcel of land has stood the test of time and is still standing here, undeveloped and might just prove to be the perfect location to make both sides of the bay again embrace baseball with a open arms from both sides of the pristine blue Tampa Bay waters.

It is simply unimaginable that at this very location lies some great infrastructural groundwork already being done to improve the area’s roads and provide additional external ramps for future usage.  That this parcel might neeed a bit more subtle tweaking and upgrading compared to the other two sites to take on the extra burden of game day traffic and even ground transport to and from all points around Tampa Bay. This parcel of land sits smack in the middle of a ever growing section of Pinellas County that can support such a complex being built on this site, and should flourish beyond present expectations as both an entertainment center and transportation hub.

And  even the odd thoughts of reliable forms of alternative transportation options might have been done by accident in the past, but could prove a bright shining star to  showcase this parcel. Because of the local business district at Carillion Parkway, there is an already established Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) bus route that serves the surrounding neighborhood office complex/condo community to the west of this parcel of land that could be greatly expanded to ease the transportation burdens of fans or  might even be more fine tuned to the needs of the stadium complex.

Sure there will need to be additonal road construction or even off ramps or remote parking lots to take full advantage of the stadium, but they could be effectively designed to take the additonal stress off of  the usual I-275 traffic going towards other Tampa Bay regions. And I personally like the idea of a year round Convention Center being constructed on the parcel to help bring a burst of activity to the stadium year round.  But the biggest priority will have to be to build a great infrastructure supporting system to ease the demands by the I-275 traffic returning from Hillborough County at the 5 pm rush hour on game days.

And if you really want to look into the future about possible traffic solutions, maybe the PSTA and Hillsborough Area Rapid Transit Authority (HARTA) could combine or share some resources and produce a traffic alternative to bringing fans to Rays games from satellite parking lots or pre-destined pick-up locations throughout the Tampa Bay area. But because this parcel of land, to me, is so perfect for this future Rays stadium, my imagination is already running a mile a minute with ideas and future personal idea recommendations. Guess that is why they did not consider me for a post on the Coalition(lol).

And it is great to be finally have the ABC report coming out and we can get a bit of closure towards all of the ideas and proposals thrown up in the air over the last two years considering locations for a future home for the Rays. And it finally puts the obsurd idea of refurbishing Tropicana Field or even considering the distant Tampa Fair Grounds out as choices for final stadium consideration, and we can quickly move onto the three best locales.

And the Pinellas County choice is simply ideal as it is also situated within a critical epicenter of the cross-county area to give more access to Tampa residents and upper Pinellas and Pasco-Hernando county citizens, but might prove a bit of an added driving burden for people traveling north from Sarasota or Manatee Counties. But if it is a state-of-the-art stadium with all the bells and whistles to entice corporate America to expand their involvement and support with the Rays, then we are all going to be winners in the long run, not just the Rays.

This beautiful parcel of land was left in it’s present state for some reason. It has withstood the Florida construction booms to stay true and unbuilt upon for decades. Could this be the ultimate locale for the Rays future proposed stadium? Can we finally put to rest the echoes of discontent by the citizens of Tampa to their “bridge phobia” or the hour long commute to games and finally bridge this stadium location into a unified show of community support by the  Tampa Bay region on this one proposed site.

Next time you rush down Ulmerton Road on your way home from Tampa, look to the northwest and check out this parcel of land and see if you can see what I see…. A beautiful retractable roof stadium with a natural grass surface situated right off a main span of highway, but with a distant flickering lights of the downtown buildings surrounding Tampa Bay from the sight points on this tract of land.

This debate might be destined to go back and forth for the next few years with each side proclaiming some thin sliver of a slice of advantage to their location. But this location to me is perfectly suited to entertain the notion and the construction of a new masterpiece stadium for baseball. People soon forget that the first drawings of Tropicana Field had the stadium open to the elements on its southern side.

Instead it was enclosed and with Minnesota opening their new open-air stadium in 2010, the Trop will be the last of the totally domed stadium in Major League Baseball. So maybe it was  a sort of locale devine intervention that left  this parcel vacant for so long and loudly screams “baseball stadium” to me. And hopefully it will be heard loud and long enough for even the multitudes of Rays fans in both counties to conclude….This has to be the new home for Rays baseball.