This morning, freelance writer George Meyer penned an op-ed that made the case for a new Rays stadium in Palmetto Beach - the blighted area of East Tampa/Ybor City.
The first warning sign that the column should be taken not just with a grain, but a whole spoonful of salt, is that Meyer discloses he's been buying up Palmetto Beach rentals for 12 years and would stand to profit if a new stadium were built in the middle of the blight.
The second warning sign comes when he contends a site "fewer than five minutes from downtown Tampa" would solve the team's attendance problems. Of course, one of the knocks on Tropicana Field, a mere two minutes from Downtown St. Pete, is that it's too far from the city's core to provide any real impact.
Then, there's the fact that Meyer obviously didn't learn any lessons from the Trop. Poor St. Pete residents were displaced from their blighted (but historic) neighborhood amid promises of better jobs and new development. But those promises went unfulfilled and there's still a lot of bitterness on St. Pete's Southside.
Meyer also doesn't seem to be paying attention to what's going on in Miami, where one of the many excuses for the disappointing first season at Marlins Park is its location in terrible neighborhood.
As for Meyer's "at least land is cheap in Palmetto Beach" argument, remember that land will be cheap just about anywhere in Tampa Bay. But this has never been about finding land for a new stadium....it's been about finding funding.
Meyer claims that the ingress/egress in Ybor would be great. But it's great right now at Tropicana Field too. And if you think people hate crossing west on the Howard Frankland Bridge at rush hour, you should try going anywhere near "Dysfunction Junction," a.k.a. the I-275/I-4 interchange.
To be perfectly honest, workers leaving the region's corporate hub, Westshore, could get to downtown St. Pete faster than they could get to Ybor many nights.
Now, before we dismiss Meyer's op-ed as just another hair-brained chapter in the Stadium Saga (he even seems to confuse high-speed rail and light rail), he manages to make two good points:
- Without new transit options, the Rays may never succeed at the turnstiles. I've suggested in the past that the team could piggyback a transit referendum since their success relies on Tampa Bay breaking its dependence on driving everywhere. But so far, nobody is talking about a half-billion dollar stadium and billion-dollar rail project in the same sentence.
- The value of Downtown Tampa land seems to be surging right now and it may not need invigorating from a baseball stadium. Sure, it would be nice to walk out the door from your skyscraper apartment to a game, but the lack of baseball (and hockey this season, for what it's worth) doesn't seem to be stopping young adults from flocking to the city's new high-rises.