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Mitch Perry Report for 9.25.15 – At least 1 MLB team wants to play in St. Pete (in the spring)

The saga of where the Tampa Bay Rays search for a new home is going on eight years now.

It was in November of 2007 that the Major League Baseball franchise held a news conference at the site of Al Lang Field to talk about building a 34,000 seat facility on the waterfront.

As we all know, that didn’t happen, and for all the words, press conferences, committees, and votes that have been conducted in the eight years since, nothing else of substance has either on this whole issue.

So it’s with some reluctance that I delve into the story this morning. However, thanks to the Atlanta Braves showing substantial interest in moving their spring training facility from Lake Buena Vista to St. Petersburg, we’re pushed backed into it.

The plan unveiled for the Braves this week is ambitious. It’s a 240-acre property that would include a stadium, arena, practice field and hotel rooms on the former Toytown landfill area in Pinellas County. The announcement led St. Pete City Council Chairman Charlie Gerdes to ask the Pinellas County Commission and Tourist Development Council to set aside $6 million of the county’s bed tax for the Rays until something happens on the stadium front. Apparently, no one else on council or in the Kriseman administration was very moved by it, however.

The Kriseman proposal to do what needs to be done – have Stu Sternberg get the opportunity to meet with Hillsborough County officials about the possibility of building a new ballpark on this side of the bay – has been frozen for all of 2015, after four council members refused to go along with it.

With the regular season set to end after next weekend, the sides still aren’t going to get together anytime soon. However, if Lisa Wheeler-Brown defeats Will Newton in the District 7 council race on November 3, there would be a majority to vote to allow for the Rays to talk.

So unless something new happens, we’re not going to have any movement on this for awhile. And if Newton wins, well, perhaps another member of the council will reverse course on not allowing the Rays to talk.

Whatever. This issue’s been going on for way too long, but there isn’t any sense of urgency. Not with the Rays lease not ending for 13 more years.

Oh, and by the way, with six home dates left to go, it looks like the 2015 season will end with the Rays once again finishing the season with the worst home attendance in the league. Their 15,573 per game attendance makes the Rays the 30th out of 30 teams for another year, and one of only two teams (Clevealnd being the other) that is averaging less than 20,000 a game.

That’s whole other column, though. I think the story about the Braves is that the Tampa Bay area, and Florida overall, is the perfect place for spring training baseball, when the weather is perfect in March. The regular season? I’d argue that the MLB experience since 1993 in Miami and ’98 in St. Petersburg has never, ever truly worked.

In other news..

Will the Tampa City Council and Mayor Bob Buckhorn be able to come to common ground on how many selections the council will get on the police civilian review board? The mayor says he’s willing to compromise by giving the council one more selection to the regular nine-member board, and one more alternate.

There’s a damning report released this week on the state of Florida proving unemployment benefits to those citizens who have earned those benefits.

If you were poised to travel to Brandon this morning for the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation meeting, fuggetaboutit. Meeting’s been canceled, or postponed until December.

In the wake of the Go Hillsborough imbroglio, County Commission Chair Sandy Murman released a set of lobbying reforms. But a man who would like to join Murman on the BOCC next year, Democrat Brian Willis, says Murman’s reform are weak tea as he unveils his own proposal. 

And Donald Trump may be getting crankier on the stump, but on the first full day of autumn he continues to be The Man atop two major national GOP presidential polls released yesterday.

Written By

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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