Rays' ballpark plan benched

06/25/08 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:

The Tampa Bay Rays this afternoon withdrew a proposal to build a new ballpark on the waterfront this year.

The St. Petersburg City Council has been holding meetings for months in trying to understand the issue. They had to decide by Aug. 7 whether to put a measure on the November ballot to allow citizens decide whether they wanted the park.

The announcement was made this afternoon by team President Matt Silverman. Silverman did not say when the Rays will ask for another stadium, or where that location might be.

The proposal to build a new park on the current site of Progress Energy Park at Al Lang Field was introduced last November. Because the park is located on the waterfront, the citizens of St. Petersburg needed to vote on the issue. A recent poll showed strong opposition to the plan.

The $450-million plan was to be financed about 1/3rd by the Rays, with the remaining amount expected to come from developers paying for the land at the current home of the Rays, Tropicana Field.

The team announced a new baseball coalition that would work with the community to get a consensus on where the new park should be. It will be led by Progress Energy CEO Jeff Lyash.

The Pinellas County Commission also needed to weigh in - by July 22 - on whether to approve up to $100 million in tourist tax money.

Mayor Rick Baker had been noncommittal throughout the last year on his feelings about the proposed waterfront park. Baker today discussed the effort beginning 30 years ago to bring Major League Baseball to St. Petersburg. He spoke what the new baseball coalition will actually do.

Jo Ellen Shilke is owner of the Globe Coffee Lounge on First Avenue North in downtown St. Petersburg. She is also the host of the WMNF program Art In Your Ear. She believes the proposed park along the waterfront was always a non-starter for many St. Petersburg residents.

Last week Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig alienated some Rays fans when he blasted Tropicana Field in an interview, and suggested that he understood why owner Stuart Sternberg wanted to have a new stadium.

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