John Higgins, ?the Rays senior vice president of administration/general counsel, tells Pinellas County Commissioners that dialogue on a new team stadium is welcome.
CLEARWATER – Pinellas County Commissioners have made it clear. They want the Tampa Bay Rays to stay in Pinellas and they want to have a voice in the team’s future, especially its choice of a stadium site.
To that end, Mike Meidel, director of Economic Development; Tim Ramsberger, deputy director at Visit St. Pete Clearwater; and Cindy Margiotta, senior Economic Development manager, prepared an overview of possible sites for a new professional stadium for the Rays in Pinellas.
Margiotta told the Commission at its July 19 meeting that the report was not a comprehensive analysis. She described it as more of a “very high level scan” that does not prioritize.
Instead, the sites are ones that could meet the evaluation criteria provided by the Rays, which include:
• The ability to be a catalyst for development • Local authenticity • Regional connectivity • Accessibility • Size and geometry (at least 20 acres on land with a suitable shape for a stadium) • Financial feasibility • Development readiness
Another consideration is that the property has a single or few owners.
The team used ESRI Community Analyst, a web-based application that uses demographic, consumer spending and business data to provide site analysis, reports and drive-time mapping. The report does not include information as to the interest of property owners in making the property available for a stadium or the sites constructability.
Margiotta explained that the list only includes one site in the city of St. Petersburg due to Mayor Rick Kriseman’s public statements favoring Tropicana Field. She did point out that there were seven additional sites within St. Petersburg that could meet the criteria.
The 10 sites listed geographically from south to north are:
1 - Tropicana Field, the current site of the Ray’s stadium, is approximately 86 acres at One Tropicana Drive in St. Petersburg. Highlights include high development potential, excellent accessibility, excess size and geometry, authentic downtown, development ready and it is owned by Pinellas County.
2 - Derby Lane is a 135-acre site located at 10490 Gandy Blvd. N. in unincorporated Pinellas. Highlights include high development potential, excellent regional connectivity and access, excess size and geometry, potential bay views and it has a single owner.
3 - The 33-acre Cheezum property is on the southwest corner of 118th Avenue North and 49th Street in Pinellas Park. Highlights include good regional access and connectivity, future expressway location, good size and geometry and ownership by a single owner except for 2.11-acres owned by the county.
4 - Sunshine Speedway is a 20-acre property at 12501 40th St. N. in Pinellas Park. Highlights include possible access to the Gateway Express and ownership by Florida Department of Transportation. It has adequate size with potential for more acreage from state and county owner property.
5 - The Glasbrenner property is a 30-acre parcel located at 3565 126th Avenue in Pinellas Park. Highlights include possible access to Gateway Express, good size and geometry, and it has a single owner.
6 - The Airco property is 128-acres at 13690 Stonybrook Drive in unincorporated Pinellas. Highlights include high development potential, good access to Ulmerton Road, excess size and geometry and it is owned by St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.
7 - Orange Blossom Groves/Norris Dealership consists of 35 acres on the southwest corner of U.S. 19 north and Belleair Road in unincorporated Pinellas. Highlights include good regional access to both U.S. 19 Frontage Roads, good size and geometry, possible acreage for parking to the north, potential bay and creek views and future Pinellas Trail. It is privately owned.
8 - The Clearwater Cay property also is privately owned. It is a 20-acre site on the northeast corner of U.S. 19 and Belleair Road in Clearwater. Highlights include good regional access with both U.S. 19 Frontage Roads, potential bay views, adequate size and possible acreage for parking to the south.
9 - The majority of the Kenyon Dodge dealership site is owned by a single owner. The 21-acre site is located at 19329 and 19400 U.S. 19 N. in Clearwater. Highlights include usable size and geography, possible bay views, future Pinellas Trail and possible acreage for parking along power lines.
10 - The 88-acre Oldsmar Race Track Road is located on the southwest corner of Forest Lake Boulevard South and Race Track Road in Oldsmar. Highlights include high development potential, additional adjacent acreage under the same owner, potential future CSX Railroad connection and it is adjacent to the Hillsborough County Line.
Commissioner Ken Welch said he would like to see information on the other sites located in St. Petersburg including the former Toytown landfill. Commissioner Dave Eggers wants to talk about “reality” including potential costs and financing timeframes.
Commissioner Janet Long said the commission needed to “find out from the Rays whether they really want to be here.”
“We could do an awful lot of work and maybe they don’t [want to be here],” she said.
John Higgins, ?the Rays senior vice president of administration/general counsel, didn’t answer Long’s question, but he did thank the county for its report, adding that he had lived in Pinellas County since he was in the second grade.
“We welcome the dialogue,” he said. “We’re willing to meet with any and all of you.”
He said he appreciated the due diligence of county staff to identify so many sites. He said some he was aware of, but others might be new. He said the Rays intended to give all the sites that meet the criteria a “fair shake,” and that all sites presented would be weighed against the criteria uniformly.
“Most importantly, we want a ball park to be iconic and to be a part of the community, a big part of the community more so than a place play 81 ball games,” he said.