Results tagged ‘ Thunderdome ’

Pondering What Almost Happened for Tampa Bay in 1992

Every time I see the Seattle Mariners as they take the field, I think of what could have been. Their teal, royal blue and white team colors could of easily transferred into the Tampa Bay color scheme. Funny how the arrogance of one person cost Tampa Bay a team for so long.

It seems like so long ago, but it was only 1992 when the Tampa Baseball Group led by Tampa businessman Frank Morsani almost pulled off  their own baseball miracle. Say it with me for a second, Tampa Bay Mariners. It had that perfect nautical sitting on the Gulf of Mexico ring to it.

19 years ago the Tampa Baseball Group was poised and ready to help subsequently pack up everything Mariners related and move it 3, 125 miles to the hamlet of St. Petersburg, Florida. The Tampa group thought they had a clean-cut solid deal in place knowing that a majority of the  American League franchise ownership was poised and ready to approval their deal and move to Florida.

The Mariners current majority owner, Jeff Smulyan could easily visualize that he could be just as rich and remain in an ownership position if he sold his team and also moved along with it to Tampa Bay. There was solid  evidence that if Smulyan wanted to relocate his team to Tampa Bay, the American League would vote the franchise move in a landslide.

Former St. Petersburg Times columnist Hubert Mizell wrote back in 1992: “ Smulyan doesn’t expect a Seattle angel. If the Tampa Bay deal become reality, the man from Indianapolis absolutely wants to be a majority owner. He would steadfast oppose a lame-duck season in Seattle”

As we all know an angel did appear….from the far away island of Japan.

The video game giant Nintendo firmly put themselves at the forefront, hoping to stave off the shady doing of Smulyan.  Suddenly a  local business savior had emerged with a solid reputation, and very, very deep pockets. Smulyan was blindsided by the move that showed the region’s tenacity and resilience. This was the same SoDo community leadership group that he secretly scoffed about in private, and never saw imagined this type of ownership coup  would materialize.

Smulyan immediately started acting like a spoiled child. Smulyan, who was a sitting member of the American League ownership committee shunned his apparent responsibilities of his post, basically refusing to even acknowledge the sale much less endorse the Japanese business Godzilla.

Instead of being in Seattle side of the issue, Smulyan vowed that he would not vote on the sale if there was a vote, depriving Seattle community of a automatic “yes” vote for the sale. Smulyan even went as far as to not recognize or give his blessing in any shape or form regarding the Nintendo offer.

I still love this quote by Smulyan: “I have read the application, but I am not going to comment on it I don’t want to give my opinion on it or any way influence the committee. The Best thing about the process is it’s out of my hands”.

Got to love the arrogance and spite riddled within those words. Here is a owner who put his club up for sale, and a local buyer did not materialize, so he sold it to  the Tampa Baseball Group that would move the franchise cross-country in a heartbeat. Little did the public know at that time in 1992 that Smulyan refused to sign a local cable television deal that would have brought the Mariners between $ 3-6 million dollars just for 1992 season.

You had an owner who wanted to act like an absentee landlord hoping his nonchalant attitude would get his traveling papers stamped and approved by his fellow American League owners so he could motor on down to St. Petersburg. Smulyan had full intention of the 1992 season starting in the then named Thunderdome in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Smulyan tried to bluff the table by acting like a dis-concerned owner and it ended up backfiring in his face and wallet. The Nintendo offer brought to the table the MLB prerequisite of a local Seattle ownership group with considerable wealth and a long term commitment of providing a future investments to the team.

What was so funny about all of it was earlier in the sale process Smulyan had gone on to tell the Seattle community, “ This was Seattle’s chance to step up and save baseball for the community.” 19 years ago Tampa Bay almost got their prized baseball team, but with it might have come the owner from h-e-double hockey sticks.

So the next time you are in the stands and hear a fan rant and rave about this ownership group, or even the Vince Namoli era, maybe you should tell him about the owner we almost got saddled with. The guy who turned his back and ears on his community and tried to pack his team up for Florida without any regret. Still like the sound of Tampa Bay Mariners, but Tampa Bay Rays does have a better sting to it.

Central Pinellas Site is Still Perfect for Convention Center/ Stadium

Over the last 30 years during my road trips on I-275 over the Howard Franklin Bridge towards Pinellas County/St. Petersburg, my eyes have always been drawn towards a particular densely swampy parcel of land just opposite of the long abandoned Florida Welcome Center.

I have always puzzled me why some savvy developer/builder had not previously bought or built something amazing on this prime slab of real estate nestled just outside the mangrove wetlands.
It simply astonishes that this parcel of tall grass had not been the jewel of someone’s fast money making scheme, and was not being held vacant because of possible salt water intrusion or interrupting the natural flow of the the mangroves thickets lining the Southern most edges of this parcel.  

Sure I have seen a few scattered condo communities and office buildings spring up just off this uneven and sometimes water-soaked parcel, but even with the prospect of future encroachment by modern civilization to its grasses, this pact of land has remained pretty consistant and dormant for several decades. 

Even as I gaze upon this large parcel this afternoon, my vivid and wild imagination envisions a plethora of possibilities of what could one day be built upon this land. That one day a calling card monument could be built upon this land and become a regional welcoming beacon to travelers cruising Southbound on I-275 just a click beyond the Ulmerton Road and 9th Street exit ramps towards the hamlets of mid Pinellas County and St. Petersburg. 

Why has this massive singular parcel withstood the rush of greed and easy money to somehow be sparred by the decades of real estate speculation and explosions to remain clear and free of development?

Was there a wise benefactor, or  a possible (hopefully) dealbreaker botched by someone stuck somewhere within one of the neighboring office buildings without adequate windows to not build, sell or even excavate this lush green segment off the tip of the Howard Franklin Bridge.
Could it possibly be held in secret by a sly developer or real estate mastermind for the rebound of the real estate market future with visions of dollar signs dancing through his head. 

Could someone have really envisioned so far into the future that this same parcel could one day  be the site of a great architectural symbol of the Tampa Bay region built upon its sandy soil and forever be known throughout the World for its construction on this very site?

That this same piece of land could one day possibly house the benchmark in stadium “green technology” while also communing and embracing the surrounding mangroves and oyster beds to showcase that man and nature can systematically co-exsist, even with the intrusion of sports just beyond the shallow canoe trails and tide pools? 

It is a divine miracle this same plot did not go under the blades of a bulldozer or excavator before now. 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 proposed multi-use stadium that would evolve into the Florida Suncoast Dome/Thunderdome/Tropicana Field. It was just built 9 miles in the wrong direction. 

It is so wild that this little preserved parcel of land could one day be considered as the perfect centerpiece parcel for the building or state-of-the-art stadium/convention center facility that the Tampa Bay community has been seeking for so long.

It is still a bit mindboggling to me that this parcel of land has stood the epic test of Florida’s construction explosion and is still standing here, undeveloped. It might just be the perfect location to make both sides of Tampa Bay again embrace baseball with open arms from both sides of the pristine blue waters. 


It is simply unimaginable that at this very location lies within a few feet of this region’s highest traveled throughfares, with great infrastructural groundwork already being done to improve the area’s roads and room for possible additional external ramps for the future. 

This parcel might need a bit more subtle tweaking and upgrading to take on the extra burden of game day traffic along with the usual commuter congestion, plus maybe a few additional ground transportation options 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. 

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 as a shining example of what a stadium site should envision.

Because of the already exisiting business district around the 28th Street/ Carillion Parkway hub, there is an 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 fine tuned to the needs of a convention center/stadium complex. 

I personally like the idea of a year round Convention Center being constructed on the parcel to help bring an extra burst of daily activity to the stadium year round.  Top priority would have to be given to designing a feasible infrastructure support system to ease the demands of both I-275 traffic returning to and from Hillborough County at the 5 pm rush hour on game days. 

And if you really want to look into the future for possible traffic solutions, maybe the PSTA and Hillsborough Area Rapid Transit (HART) can combine their collective resources as a community unit and effectively create a regional remote parking lot alternative or establish a multiple-county transit solution to bringing fans to Rays games from satellite parking lots or pre-destined pick-up locations throughout Tampa Bay. 


The Pinellas County choice is simply ideal as it is 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 a additional 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. 

This beautiful parcel of land was left in it’s present state for some reason. It has withstood the Florida construction boom, stayed true to it’s natural roots 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 one potential 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 envision on that parcel….

A beautiful retractable roof stadium with a natural grass surface situated right off a main span of Interstate, but with a unique nightly background of distant flickering lights of the downtown buildings surrounding Tampa Bay from any sightline vantage points.This stadium debate can no longer remain silent or continue with each side of the bay proclaiming to the heavens that their stadium site location has some thin sliver of an advantage. This one site fulfills a lot of the criteria, is centerally located, and has breathtaking scenic nature views into the eustary that is Tampa Bay.

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 sideWith Minnesota opening Target Field in 2010 and forever leaving the Metrodome, the Trop will be the last of a dying breed of domed stadiums within Major League Baseball. So maybe it was some sort of divine intervention that left  this parcel vacant for so long and loudly screams “baseball stadium” to me.

Hopefully it will be heard loud and long enough for even the multitudes of Rays fans in both counties to conclude….This would be a great parcel of land for the future home of Rays baseball. 


Could Tropicana Field change it’s Name?

I was extremely surprised today when the Florida Fairgrounds head honcho David Harb announced earlier today the completion of a naming change for their semi-covered outdoor concert venue from the Ford Amphitheatre to the 1-800 Ask Gary Amphitheatre. Guess if we ever hit the road for a concert now over in East Tampa, we can refer the venue as the “Gary”. But that brings up some interesting questions.

If the Florida Fairgrounds can change their venues name, what is stopping the Rays from maybe ending their relationship with Tropicana/Dole Brands and maybe throwing a new name on the dome the Rays currently call home. This same enclosed arena has had three names since its inception, the Florida Suncoast Dome (1990-1993), the Thunder Dome (1993-1996), and it’s first commercially named rights holder, Tropicana Field (1996-?).

Bradenton’s own giant Tropicana Dole brands North America announced their naming rights deal on October 4, 1996 months before a baseball team ever set foot upon the turf in the 72 degree venue. There is no general mention that I could find today as to the extent or expiration of the Trop’s naming rights contract. And with Tropicana’s parent company Pepsico holding the “pouring rights” within the confines of Tropicana Field for the first 15-years, could there be a name change in the future for the Trop?


With the expiration of Pepsi’s “pouring” monopoly possibly ending in October 2011, could there be a wind of change among the signage at Tropicana Field? In all honestly, I see Pepsi and Tropicana extending and continue contributing and “pouring” at the Rays facilities for a long time. But sometimes a local company can make an instant name for itself by spending million of dollars every year for an instant advertising focal point that gets mentioned numerous times in every television and radio broadcast throughout not only Rays games, but in other events held at the dome after the Major League Baseball season ends.

So if the Tropicana/Pepsico relationship were to end…..What company or product would try and attach itself to the dome and makes its visibility explode into the Tampa Bay region. We know that Pepsi’s biggest rival Coca-Cola no longer has a huge dominance in the MLB parks, but would they attempt to push the Pepsico brands name off the stadium and maybe throw their own drink Powerade aid up on the stadium’s signage?

Of course all this conversation is actually all speculation and hypothetical thoughts considering Tropicana still has a firm naming rights deal in place, but if for some reason Pepsi was removed from the Trop’s concession stands after the 2011 season, would Tropicana pull themselves from the stadium’s signage as a sign of solidarity towards Pepsi? But of course this is all null and void since an agreement is solidly in place, and Tropicana has made no intention or conclusion to end their relationship with the Rays.

But with the new about the Amphitheatre at the Florida Fairgrounds changing its name, it brings up an interesting thought process of what would be the Rays stadium’s next name? With a new stadium on the increasing horizon, and conversations moving forward hopefully after the 2010 season, will the Rays carry the Tropicana name with them to a new home, or seek another identity for their new digs. Could the Rays want to wash the stigma away clean in their new stadium with no ties to Tropicana, or will the relationship still flourish as nothing ever changed. I could see a viable change to the Rays stadium naming rights when they vacate the current Tropicana Field dome.


Maybe it will be a investment banking name attached to the stadium, or possibly a large grocery chain. And considering the new stadium will house the best and brightest “green” energy alternatives at that moment, could a local power provider or even home improvement empire try and construct a new relationship with the Rays and push their visual agenda. Corporate revenues and sponsorships are critical in today’s fiscal environment not only for the team’s survival, but for their future. So it is a realistic thought that Tropicana Field will cease the moment the Rays play their last game under it’s white dome.

Could Pepsico maybe be innovative and try and attach one of their more wholesome environmentally friendly brands like Sobe into the mix for the name of a Rays future home. I kind of like the name Sobe Center, it flows right off your tongue like Sobe’s own Green tea product. I guess we will have to wait and see what happens.