We thought what better time than on the Tampa Bay Rays opening day for us to cover the slew of articles and editorials about how everyone but Mayor Bill Foster wants to talk to the Rays about a new stadium. There are two recent Tampa Bay Times editorials(the latest one in print today) continuing their open war on Bill Foster by saying things like “stadium discussions stalled by St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster’s petty parochialism and lack of vision”, and “serious discussions have yet to start for a new Rays stadium because of Foster’s intransigence” as well as “Mayor Bill Foster’s failure to lead” and “Foster buries his head in the sand”. Of course we couldn’t agree more with these assessments of our stumbling Mayor, we previously covered how Foster was outmatched and unprepared during the meeting with Rays management in January, and ended up the loser in that meeting. But the real losers in the end are the people who want the Rays to stay in the Tampa Bay area. Mayor Foster has no new stadium plans, he is content to sit, do nothing and prevent anyone from talking to the Rays about keeping them in the region throughout his term in office, and then let the next Mayor deal with a much more volatile situation than he inherited. St. Petersburg can’t afford to build a new stadium without regional financial help, and it makes no sense to alienate everyone around us all the while the Rays buyout amount gets smaller and smaller every year, and they will remember how inflexible St. Pete was, resulting in even less chance that a new stadium would be built in our city.
As a result of this, some Hillsborough and Pinellas county commissioners at least want SOMEONE to be talking to the Rays about a new stadium so the region doesn’t lose the franchise. And Tampa’s more charismatic Mayor Bob Buckhorn is not bothered about other people trying to get a stadium discussion going, as long as he’s not in the middle of it.
Even Foster ally Bill Dudley on the St Pete City Council brought up the subject of state funding for a new stadium with the city’s lobbyist a couple weeks ago, and he was bluntly shot down, being told that at the state level where they are debating cutting funding for children’s programs, the disabled and senior health care, there is no will for new stadium funding at the state level.
And what do we hear from Mayor Bill Foster on all of this? Snarky comments like “I wish him well with his endeavor” or “Maybe we’ll see each other and embrace.” or “We’ll just chalk it up to Mr. Hagan having a bad day”, and that he would expect a “courtesy phone call” before a county official would discuss this in public. As usual he really doesn’t have anything useful to say or any kind of real plan for the long term future, and so continues the leadership vacuum here in St Pete.