Poll: 69% oppose funding for waterfront ball park

11/21/07 Mitch E. Perry
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A St. Petersburg Times poll released today shows that 57 percent of city voters support the idea of a downtown, waterfront baseball park if no city tax dollars are spent for it.

If city taxes are part of the deal, the poll finds solid opposition of 69 percent.

As of now, the Tampa Bay Rays are not asking for any new city funding. The team is asking for $60 million in sales tax rebates, an idea that several state lawmakers say do not support.

St. Petersburg citizens will be asked next November to vote on allowing for development along the waterfront for the 35,000-seat stadium. The proposal is to expand the site of Al Lang Field, which currently holds only 7,100 people.

Karl Nurse, a community activist in St. Petersburg, thinks the move will be difficult.

The Rays would need $60 million in sales tax rebates to be approved by state legislators. And it appears that the Rays are working overtime to ingratiate themselves with the Tampa bay delegation.

Recently, the Rays sent custom jerseys and baseball caps to state legislators, but some of those legislators are returning the free gear after attorneys for the House and Senate said they needed to return them or pay for them.

Earlier this year, the Rays invited state legislators from the Tampa area to attend a Rays game in corporate boxes.

As part of the financing of the $450 million proposed stadium, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg has pledged to contribute $150 million, leaving roughly $240 million to be raised elsewhere. The Rays hope to sell Tropicana Field and use the proceeds to help pay off the new park.

Nurse says that aspect of the deal may be the most problematic of all.

St. Petersburg House Representative Richard Kriseman said he doesn’t know much about the details of the park, but hopes it incorporates green building designs if it does go forward.

The Rays still owe more than $100 million to the city of St. Peterburg and Pinellas County for construction costs of Tropicana Field.

Kriseman says nothing will happen without the approval of St. Petersburg voters.

The Rays said today that Gov. Charlie Crist, Mayor Rick Baker and Major League Baseball President Bob DuPuy will be on hand next Wednesday for the official announcement of ballpark proposal.

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