An architectural rendering of the proposed Oldsmar Rays stadium development, which would be located on 120 acres across from Tampa Bay Downs and feature a 30,000-seat baseball stadium plus restaurants, retail, entertainment, apartments and condos, movie theaters, an office complex and a multi-floor driving range club.
OLDSMAR – As calls to conduct a survey of Oldsmar residents regarding the possible Rays move have intensified, city officials continue to claim such a move would be premature and ill-founded at this stage of the game.
Based on the recent announcement that the team will not make a decision on a new stadium location until the end of the year. Coupled with the news that St. Petersburg is finally going all-in on its proposal to keep the Rays in town, asking Oldsmar residents if they want a Major League Baseball team might not matter at this point.
But amid all the confusion surrounding the stadium situation, Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis has rejected repeated requests to ask his constituents how they feel about his plan to build a 30,000-seat baseball stadium, along with hotel, residential and retail developments, on 120 acres of land located across from Tampa Bay Downs.
“A lot has transpired in the last few weeks, including the Rays pushing the date back to the end of the year,” Bevis said after the April 6 Oldsmar City Council meeting. “We have always supported St. Pete, but we also think we are a good alternative to keep them in the area.
“As far as keeping residents informed, we have had probably 36 open forum council meetings since this issue went public, and no one has ever come to ask about the Rays. And we know, from the zip line, horse trails and Little League baseball, they will come out if they have an issue.”
Though the issue has been discussed during past council meetings, no one has hosted a meeting outside of the board to talk specifically about the stadium. However, the mayor did speak recently at a Voting Members meeting in nearby Westchase.
According to an article on the World of Westchase website, Bevis explained his reasoning for pitching the stadium development project at the meeting on March 14, stating, “The owner of the Tampa Bay Downs is a very smart business person so at some point, something will go in there.” He also fielded questions from the audience before explaining how the two communities could work together. “Continue the dialogue and I will continue to update you with what I find out,” Bevis responded. “I think this site is on the short list. The due diligence has to be done including environmental impacts and transportation impacts.”
As for meeting with voters from neighboring communities before meeting with his own constituents, Bevis said he was asked to speak about the issue, something that has yet to happen in Oldsmar.
“As always, I will speak to anyone about anything,” he said. “But not one association or community organization in Oldsmar has asked me to come speak on this issue, or any issue, in the four-plus years I’ve been mayor.”
However, during the April 6 meeting, Bevis was asked by Norris during the public comments if they could hold an open discussion in Oldsmar like the one in Westchase.
“This is a huge decision,” Norris, who termed out last year after six years in office, said. “This is a big, big decision that’s going to affect every citizen of Oldsmar, so just letting us say something about it, that’s all I advocate.”
The mayor responded by saying, “We’ll take that into consideration. I just want to make sure that we do it in a right and progressive step … it’s a lot bigger picture than you can paint with a simple survey.”
Bevis added they could create a Web page “so that people can get some information on a website that maybe answers some of the things that they want, transportation issues, what’s going to go on there, things like that,” and he reiterated his plan to develop a “Frequently Asked Questions” packet that will cover every aspect of the proposal that can be given to potential site developers, business and community leaders as well as residents.
While the stadium issue might go on the back burner for a while due to the recent developments, one Oldsmar City Council member assured everyone he won’t let the talks progress much further without public input.
“If we’re going to continue with this, we need to give the people of this town answers,” longtime local lawmaker Jerry Beverland said. “Let’s meet eyeball-to-eyeball with them and let them ask their questions … and educate this whole community about the Rays.”
“All I’m saying is, I’d like to give the citizens of Oldsmar questions, or input,” he added later in the meeting. “I don’t care about Westchase, I don’t care about Tampa. I don’t care about St. Petersburg. I care about the residents of Oldsmar having their input into what we’re talking about!”