Friday, August 3, 2012

Coverage of Hillsborough/Rays Discussions

Thursday brought the expected "invitation to talk" from Hillsborough Co., but the real news of the day was the Rays' indication they'd accept it, despite the threat of legal action from St. Petersburg.

While much of the Tampa Bay broadcast media covered the predictable, WTSP's Adam Freeman did a nice job explaining St. Pete's reaction and advancing the story to "what next?"

"Hopefully this will alow us to start to break the log jam that has not moved in over three years," Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan told Freeman, who also questioned Hagan how St. Pete's contract could be bought out when he said the Rays a "200- to 300-million dollar economic engine." Hagan said he only expected a buyout to cost in the "tens of millions," but didn't elaborate.

Hagan, who had previously told the Tampa Bay Times that he was willing to cause the "divorce" between the Rays and St. Petersburg, has now advanced the Stadium Saga to the regional conversation the Rays have so desperately longed for. But he has also given the team the leverage it needs to potentially pit one side of Tampa Bay against the other. The Times editorial board applauded the move as a "smart decision."

But nobody is willing to yet address the issue of how to pay for a $600 million stadium (St. Pete's mayor once said, "Am I worried about people assembling land in Hillsborough and Tampa? I've seen their budgets."). The ABC Coalition already summarized years ago that the Rays would be better off playing near the Howard Frankland Bridge or Downtown Tampa.

Still, this could be an important step toward addressing the elephant in the room: that any new stadium in Tampa would likely have to be financed by some sort of a multi-county tax. Pinellas County, by comparison, has more funding available for a stadium, which is why Gateway remains very much in the mix.

Hillsborough County and the Rays are taking cautious steps toward a fall public meeting (with guidance from all of their attorneys), but as Field of Schemes' Neil deMause best summarizes, "is just looking OK?"

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