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ABC Coalition urges St. Pete to reconsider Rays stadium report

in The Bay and the 'Burg by
The chairman of the group researching a possible new Rays stadium location sent a letter to city leaders, urging them to re-consider a meeting. Two weeks ago, Mayor Bill Foster and City Council chair Leslie Curran said they would not meet with the ABC Coalition after it put the finishing touches on its final report.

The Coalition was commissioned in 2008 to researching the long-term feasibility of baseball in Tampa Bay. But after it started including areas of Hillsborough County in its findings – areas that appeared to be better locations than the current Downtown St. Pete location – St. Pete started to separate itself from the group.

When the group finished its final report on January 25, it planned to first present it to the St. Petersburg City Council and Pinellas County Commission. But St. Pete balked, prompting this letter from ABC Coalition chairman Jeff Lyash.

Lyash said that the advice to decline the Coalition’s invitation was “misguided.” For the rest of this story, please click here. The text of the letter Lyash sent to Foster and Curran is after the jump. February 10, 2010

Honorable Mayor Foster and Chairwoman Curran:

In June of 2008, Mayor Baker and the Rays announced the formation of the ABC Coalition, and asked me to invite community and business leaders to undertake an analysis to determine how to ensure the long term viability of profession baseball in our community.

Since my first conversation with Mayor Baker I and ABC have been consistent in asserting that we would look at our mission with a broad perspective, including consideration of potential ball park locations beyond the City of Saint Petersburg. The reason for that position was simple. The support of the entire Tampa Bay region is required to ensure long‐term viability, and therefore failure to consider the entire region in reaching conclusions regarding fan support, corporate support and ball park location would have been inconsistent with our mission.

For more than a year, and at considerable effort and expense to those involved, we honored the Mayor’s request. A final report summarizing our findings and recommendations has been written, made publicly available and transmitted to the city and other interested parties. In that transmittal, and in my letter today, I extend an offer for ABC to meet with the City to present the findings and answer questions to the best of our ability.

Although I have not discussed the issue with any representative of the City, it is my understanding that you have been advised by the City’s professional staff to decline to meet with representatives from the ABC Coalition. I understand that the nature of the objection by professional staff is that ABC is “interfering” with the contractual relationship between the Rays and the City.

I believe that the advice from professional staff was based on a misunderstanding of the way in which the ABC Coalition was created, and the limited role that was it assigned. ABC is not advocating on behalf of either the Rays or the City, and has no authority to negotiate on behalf of either party. Instead, ABC is merely reporting its findings. Findings prepared, in part, at the request of the City and the Rays.


The City has a long and dignified history of hearing from stakeholders in this community about matters of importance. I am sure you would agree that under anyone’s measure, major league baseball is significant enough to merit your time and consideration. I and the other ABC Board members have great respect for Mayor Foster and the members of the City Council, as individuals and as representatives of the citizens of Saint Petersburg. As a primary stakeholder, we want to give you the first in‐depth briefing among all public and interested parties.

I thought it important to provide you with my perspective on this issue as you assess how to move forward. As of the date of this letter neither I nor ABC has received a response from the City regarding our offer to present our findings. I respectfully request that you consider our offer, and respond with your decision so that ABC can move forward with the process of scheduling this and other report finding presentations.

Sincerely,

Jeff Lyash, Chair

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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