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Gina - Your poll tells us what we have been saying all along.

For St. Petersburg voters, the Rays are not among their top priorities. Instead pressing domestic issues such as maintaining the city's affordability and lowering taxes take precedence—aims that seem at odds with the expenditure of $1.6 billion on a ballpark village centered around the Rays. We can have baseball and the funds for our priorities.

Just last week I wrote that Mayor Ken Welch is acting irresponsibly. His responsibility is to give the City Council Members the time, information, and outside expert advice in order for them to be able to make an informed decision on the proposed Rays/Hines deal. Among the most critical unanswered questions is - what are the city's most important priorities.

On Friday, July 5, the Tampa Bay Times* reported new information. According to a recent poll requested by Council Member Gina Driscoll, public backing for a plan to construct a new baseball stadium is not considered a top priority.

The voters' top choices for where the city should be focusing, included:

  1. Making the city more affordable.

  2. Keeping taxes down.

  3. Keeping spending down.

  4. Supporting the city's children.

  5. Supporting schools.

  6. Updating the city's water and sewer system.

After reviewing the latest findings from this poll, I am reaching out to the City Council Members, and in particular Council Member Driscoll, to emphasize that if Mayor Welch pushes for a vote on July 18, they should vote against it to avoid being equally irresponsible.

It's not surprising that keeping the Rays was not among the top 6 priorities. Most individuals prioritize being able to sustain their livelihood, securing a better future for their children, and ensuring the proper functioning of their streets and sewers over concerns about baseball.

A Rays/Hines deal will cost the city $1.6 billion:

  •  $700 million in city borrowing cost to help build a new stadium - and the city will not share in any revenue from the stadium.

  • $500 million - by selling the developable land to Rays/Hines for what many feel is more than $500 million under value.

  • $400 million - by building a new stadium on land that would otherwise generate over $400 million in real estate taxes over thirty years?

With voters focusing their priorities elsewhere, including updating the city’s water and sewer system that will cost $5 billion, why would the proposed Rays/Hines deal make sense as negotiated? Why would Mayor Welch make a new baseball stadium, seemingly at any cost, a priority over what really matters to voters - what will make life better for voters? And why would City Council Members?

  • Let’s get a new appraisal and find out what the developable land is really worth - and then renegotiate the sales price to Rays/Hines - so that the city has the funds to focus on what is most important to voters.

  • Let's get the Rays to pay a fair return on the city’s stadium investment - so that the city has the funds to focus on what is most important to voters.

  • Let's not lose sight of the fact that while everybody likes baseball, baseball does not drive economic growth. What drives growth in St. Petersburg are the beaches, the museums, the pier, the restaurants, and the work-live-play vibe. It is not baseball that that brings tourists and it brings few out of town baseball fans.

  • Let's not lose sight of the fact that the Gas Plant property is extremely valuable, and ready for development with or without Hines and the Rays - but at a fair price. And at a fair price, the property can still provide all that is promised in the current proposal - Woodson Museum, affordable housing, innovative architecture and more - while the city will have the funds for the real priorities.

  • Tampa Bay is the 17th largest major metropolitan region in the U.S., making the TV market extremely valuable. And Major League Baseball wants to expand, not move teams. The Rays are not going to leave.

Those of us opposed to the deal are not opposed to baseball - we just want what is most important to taxpayers. And while Council Member Driscoll's poll indicated positive support for a new stadium, the recent Mason Dixon Poll did as well - until the voters were told about the cost to the city. Then support faded.


So, while the mayor is overlooking the city's priorities - City Council Members - and in particular, Council Member Driscoll - must not let emotions and pressure from the mayor result in a yes vote - it’s not right. We can have baseball and the funds for our priorities - if we negotiate a fair deal.

We all need to meet our fiduciary duties and focus on what matters to make life better for the people of St. Petersburg. 


To Our Readers

If you are as concerned as we are that Mayor Welch is pushing the City Council Members to vote on July 18, without a current appraisal of the property, and without taking into account what voters feel are the city's top priorities, you can help.

You can easily contact St. Petersburg City Council to Slow Down the Process.


Referenced in this Post


Taxpayer Watchdog Groups

Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW), CCAGW Urges St. Petersburg City Council to Reconsider Stadium Funding Proposal, Tom Schatz, June 4, 2024

Taxpayer Protection Alliance, TPA Urges St. Petersburg City Council to Reject Taxpayer Funding for Tampa Bay Rays Stadium, Hunter Hamberlin, June 11, 2024



What You Can Do

We need a fair deal for St. Petersburg. If you agree, let your concerns be known to the pivotal St. Petersburg City Council members whose votes will likely decide our fate. Contact them HERE and we'll be sure that they hear from you ...


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