County Officials Speak Out Regarding Rays' New Ballpark Stadium Options
Hillsborough County (Fla.) Commission Chair Ken Hagan said that he will "ask county attorneys to opine on whether Hillsborough can engage in direct talks with the Rays about their future in the region despite the team's lease at Tropicana Field," according to Varian & Van Sickler of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. If Hagan gets a favorable response, he said that he will "reach out to the team to figure out what the Rays want and how local government can help." Since a team proposal in '08 to build a new stadium on the St. Petersburg waterfront met opposition, Rays officials have said that they "want to look at other locations including in Hillsborough." A business-backed group called the ABC Coalition issued a report two years ago that found a ballpark "in or near Tampa would generate more fans and corporate backing." St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster yesterday said that he was "surprised by Hagan's comments." Varian & Van Sickler note Foster and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn last month organized a summit with top business leaders to "discuss how the region can better support the team." Foster said of Hagan's actions, "I would question the timing." St. Petersburg City Council Chair Leslie Curran, who "criticized Foster last year for what she called his inactivity in breaching a communication gap with the team, said she was puzzled by Hagan's critique." Curran: "I don't know what his plan is or what his reasonings are for bringing this up now. The best way to keep the team in this area is to keep doing what we're doing." Hagan said that he "remains convinced that Tropicana Field is not a viable home for the Rays moving forward and that the sooner the issue is tackled, the better." Hagan added, "Common sense tells you that it's in everyone's best interest to negotiate earlier than later. Not to do so is shortsighted and smacks of political calculations" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 3/21).