I was sitting in a downtown Central Avenue wing and brew establishment with a view of Tropicana Field when the local news hounds blared the news the Rays future stadium site impasse between the City of St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Rays had finally been resolved.
People around me were clinking glasses, hoisting glassware full of adult beverages while saluting the efforts and powers that be that there would finally be sun light at the end of this stadium tunnel.
Not so fast friends, this announcement should not be time to openly celebrate. There will be stormy days ahead before all the fuss and bothered are cleaned away like a city street after an afternoon downpour.
Hidden from view to most of those here was the simple fact that even though Rays President Brian Auld and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman stood on stage ceremonially hand-in-hand on this day, the agreement, is simply words and totally moot until the “St. Pete 8” also known as the St. Petersburg City Council give their blessing or denials of the document.
Per the St. Petersburg City Charter, the City Council during their meeting cannot change the agreement’s parameters, alter the language or even suggest subtle or economic changes. The recent decision by Mayor Kriseman to postpone the planned Dec 11th vote on the agreement and rescheduling the vote for Dec 18th has merit.
The delay in the City Council vote will give Mayor Kriseman him and his staff 7 more days to educate and answer any stumbling blocks in regard to the financial or binding aspects of letting the Rays explore Hillsborough County for a possible Rays stadium site, and the city’s financial rewards if the Rays do chose another locale for their stadium.
Some might view this as a simple delay tactic, but the Dec 11th City Council meeting’s agenda was already stuffed to the gills with awards and presentations from the city and quite possibly this agreement vote would overshadow some of the deeds and accomplishment of others.
Also, the Dec 11th City Council meeting would not have on their agenda a time set for public comment or interaction. The Dec 18th meeting will adhere to Florida state law that requires the public to have a say( voice) in an item that hasn’t and will not receive any public vetting.
Auld when asked by the Tampa Bay Times about the voting delay stated, “We don’t mind waiting another week. We’ve been working on this for a very long time. We hope to get to yes when the time comes.”
To the Rays credit, they have reached out to St. Pete City Council member Karl Nurse who was a member of the Protect Our Wallets and Waterfront (POWW) group that was a thorn in the Rays side when the team wanted to put a stadium on the St. Petersburg waterfront area where historic Progress Energy /Al Lang Field is located.
For until the St. Petersburg City Council give tally their respective votes and a resolution is announced, the Mayor’s agreement with the Rays right now is simply “written in the sand” and the whole positive step by the Rays and Mayor Kriseman could still be washed away thanks to an unforeseen public tidal wave, or the St. Petersburg 8 voting against the present agreement.