Rays stadium closer to November referendum

06/05/08 Seán Kinane
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The St. Petersburg City Council today took a step closer to placing a referendum on November’s ballot for a new waterfront stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Council member Leslie Curran asked if the Rays would withdraw their request to be on this November’s ballot, but Rays’ President Matt Silverman said they would not be willing to reconsider.

A St. Petersburg Times/Bay News 9 poll released this week said most residents want the issue on the ballot, but an overwhelming majority oppose the Rays’ plan for a new ballpark. The only council member to vote against moving forward with the process of putting the Ray’s proposal on November’s ballot was Herb Polson.

St. Petersburg’s City Development Administrator Rick Mussett said the bids by the two developers to purchase the Tropicana Field site, Hines and Archstone-Madison, were millions of dollars short of the amount needed to retire the debt on the property.

The city’s internal services administrator, Mike Connors, said that contaminated soil from two sites under the parking lot east of the Trop could be excavated and burned. The cost to remove the soil contaminated by coal tar epoxies would be about $94,000 plus up to $18,000 in “soft costs.” Several members of city council, including Karl Nurse, suggested that the cleanup might be an inexpensive enough project to move forward with.

Earlier in the meeting the Council rejected a proposal from Nurse for a ballot referendum that would have protected the Al Lang site from further development. Council member Wengay Newton accused Nurse, who was appointed to council in April, of being placed there by the group Preserve our Wallets and Waterfront (POWW), which opposes the Rays’ stadium plans. Nurse’s motion to add a referendum limiting development on the site of Al Lang field was not seconded and did not get a vote.

The final decision of whether to place a referendum to build a new waterfront stadium for the Rays will not come until after the City Council votes twice more on the issue. The first reading will be on July 17 and the second will be on Aug. 7.

Photo by Seán Kinane/WMNF

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