Thursday, September 18, 2014

Handicapping the Kriseman/Edwards Battle of the 'Burg

As the dust settles over Al Lang Stadium and the brouhaha that's still brewing between the city of St. Pete and its biggest businessman, Bill Edwards, the Times' Charlie Frago reports on the collapse of a proposed settlement over stadium control {link to Times' site}.
Edwards had pledged to put $1.5 million of his own money into upgrades at Al Lang last week in a deal touted by Kriseman as a "win-win" for the city and Edwards. The four-year agreement also would have given Edwards the right to host outdoor concerts at the stadium and end a century of baseball at the waterfront park. Edwards also would have dropped his lawsuit against the baseball commission over the condition of the aging waterfront stadium.
Shots were fired across the bow, and as SaintPetersblog writes, "war between (Edwards and Mayor Rick Kriseman) could be on the horizon":
It’s suspected one of the reasons this deal has fallen apart is that the Kriseman administration got a case of buyer’s remorse. The mayor has heard from some in the community, even those partial to Edwards, and the Tampa Bay Times editorial board that having him in control of Al Lang Stadium, Sundial, The Mahaffey Theater, and so many other key projects is putting too many of the city’s eggs in one basket.
SaintPetersblog points out tensions have been high in St. Pete ever since Kriseman not-so-subtlety took jabs at Edwards on the campaign trail (his mortgage company was hit with a monster FTC fine).

Additionally, this blog has gone into great depth several times since March about Edwards' push for a new, taxpayer-subsidized stadium.  Naturally, Kriseman has pushed back.

Behind-the-scenes, some of St. Pete's biggest power-brokers tell me that Edwards - along with his chief deputy, former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker - put the "bully" in "bully pulpit."  That's why Kriseman and some city councilmembers want to slow the flow of tax dollars to Edwards and his projects, like the Rowdies and Baywalk/Sundial.  Expect that one to boil over at some point.

Meanwhile, John Romano - honored as Best Columnist by Creative Loafing - summarizes the next great St. Pete stalemate well {link to Times' site}:
Like the Pier, Tropicana Field, the police station and the master downtown waterfront plan, we might be stuck in the weeds when it comes to the future of Al Lang.

That would be a shame, because the proposed deal with Edwards has promise. It moves the city away from the tired search for quality baseball events, and it put the success or failure of soccer squarely in Edwards' hands.
[I]t is up to Edwards to convince us a soccer stadium on the waterfront is worth the investment. Pro soccer has had too many false starts in the United States for St. Pete to commit either land or money prematurely.
Yet Edwards cannot mistake a baseball stadium's demise as a positive affirmation for soccer. If he believes in soccer's future, he needs to make the necessary investment.

And if he decides he wants to take his team and go somewhere else, that is his right, too. Somehow, I think St. Pete will survive.

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