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Despite pleas, Tropicana Field won’t be part of the Southside CRA

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Tropicana Field won’t be shifted into the newly created Southside Community Development Area despite a push by Councilman Will Newton to do so.

St. Pete City Council voted 5 to 2 against Newton’s motion to ask the city and county to look into putting the likely lucrative 85-acre Tropicana Field site into the Southside CRA to help reduce poverty and stamp out blight.

The reason, much to Newton’s chagrin, was the Rays.

Newton’s idea was a valiant one. Even before builders first broke ground on the stadium in 1986 hundreds were displaced from their homes and businesses to make way for what was then the Florida Suncoast Dome. Many of those people relocated to the neighboring Midtown neighborhood.

Newton is trying to restore to those displaced residents what was once theirs anyway.

“To not have that site in that area I think is a disgrace to the people of that area,” Newton said.

But the administration cautioned against the move arguing that agreeing to put revenue from the site into the Southside CRA would be taking away any chance the city had at helping to fund a new stadium.

Translation: bye-bye Rays.

“To take what is the only pot of revenue off the table before you start that conversation,” City Council member Karl Nurse trailed off. “[That’s] somewhere between moronic and grandstanding.”

Simply put, if ad valorem revenue from development on the 65 acres that likely would not be used for a new stadium were put into the Southside CRA, that funding could not be used for a new stadium. The city would have no other revenue stream to draw from to make up the difference and make a stadium viable.

And Nurse wasn’t the only one to crush Newton’s plan. City Council Chairman Charlie Gerdes, long a supporter of Mayor Rick Kriseman’s deal with the Tampa Bay Rays to let the baseball team look for stadium sites outside of St. Pete, pointed out that under Newton’s voting pattern, there is no ad valorem revenue on the site anyway.

Newton has consistently voted “no” on Kriseman’s deal and shows no signs of changing his mind. If he were to continue to get his way there would be no revenue on the Tropicana Field site until after 2027 when the Rays’ Use Agreement expires and they vacate the dome.

“The minute the Rays decide, if we let them ever, and the minute they decide St. Pete isn’t the place … I’ll vote to do this,” Gerdes said of Newton’s plan. “Until that happens, in order to make that site a viable location and the strongest candidate for keeping the Rays, I’m not going to vote to move it out of the [intown] CRA.”

But that’s not likely to happen. Newton has about a month left in office before he’s replaced by newly elected Lisa Wheeler-Brown. She is I favor of reaching a deal with the Rays and supported the Mayor’s memorandum of understanding with the team.

Wheeler-Brown likely represents the fifth vote needed to move a stadium deal forward.

But Newton pointed out just because he won’t be on the dais does not mean he’s going anyway.

“I’ll die here,” Newton said.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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