Activists: Tropicana contamination lingers

03/26/08 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:

This afternoon at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, citizens who oppose a new waterfront baseball stadium held a press briefing to discuss possible environmental contamination at the site of the existing domed stadium.

Neil Allen is a Realtor and represents Preserve Our Wallets and Waterfront (POWW). He showed WMNF one of the monitoring well caps in the parking lot to the east of the stadium and Booker Creek, which runs along the stadium. There's recent evidence of continued environmental contamination of the Tropicana Field site, Allen said.

Steve Lang is a member of the steering group for POWW and said that St. Petersburg’s City Development Administrator Rick Mussett claimed incorrectly that there were no monitoring wells at the Tropicana Field site.

“We found five of the seven monitoring wells that the deputy mayor and Mr. [Rick] Mussett said didn’t exist. He said the contamination had been resolved. It has not been resolved,” Lang said.

The Tropicana Field site was owned by the city of St. Petersburg and used for industrial purposes, including a coal gasification plant. The city sold the property to Pinellas County for $1 under a deal that would see the property revert back to city ownership once it is no longer used as a sports stadium.

Earlier this year the city sent out requests for proposals (RFPs) for developers to propose redevelopment schemes of the publicly owned land at the Tropicana Field site. The three proposals were for mixed-use development including residential, which Allen says would be dangerous if the site is still contaminated.

The city of St. Petersburg would have to pay for any remediation, according to the redevelopment proposals submitted by the developers Hines and Archstone. The third proposal did not contain detailed financial information.

Before Tropicana Field was built, environmental remediation was done, but the amount of work and the costs were much greater than anticipated because of the amount of contamination at the site, Allen said. The same thing could happen, according to Allen, if the site is redeveloped as the Rays hope.

Allen said that the city should not bring the question of the Tropicana Field site redevelopment to the voters this year because they don’t know how much it would cost taxpayers.

The Rays currently owe the city about $20-million for the use of Tropicana Field. The lease agreement is $1-million per year and runs through 2027. But the Rays are asking to get out of that debt by having a new stadium built. If redevelopment occurs, the city would still have to find a way to pay back more than $100-million in debt it owes on the Trop, Allen said.

The next City Council public hearing on the Tropicana Field redevelopment proposal will be April 10 at 6 p.m.

Learn more:

Preserve Our Wallets and Waterfront (POWW)

Tampa Bay Rays stadium and redevelopment proposal

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