Henry Boxlor weighs in on Stu Sternberg’s push for a new stadium outside of downtown St. Pete:
There are some institutions that I universally dislike. Banks, Insurance companies, car salesmen, and professional sports organizations. Don’t get me wrong I like hockey, football and baseball. Basketball, not so much. Just not the businesses that run them, like MLB, for example. I have watched the professional sports business manipulate states, counties and cities for years. Guys like Sternberg and his cohorts of the baseball clique constantly play on the emotional side of the baseball issue to extort hundreds of millions of dollars from taxpayers to help run a business that generates hundreds of millions of dollars in profits and easily tugs at the heart strings of any of us who ever went to a baseball game with our dad or granddad.
It easy for me to imagine a scene not unlike the epilogue on the now syndicated TV program Boston Legal where the two stars Spader and Shatner sat on a balcony drinking expensive scotch and smoking expensive cigars musing about the results of their nefarious activity. Substitute Sternberg and one of his baseball cronies and I think the scene plays the same way. Here we have Stu, obviously a smart guy, manipulating two of the largest county governments in the state, two of the top seven cities in the state trying to leverage one against the other. The conversation would undoubtedly reflect their total disdain for most of the political figures involved and the whole area would be the butt of their jokes. These are not the boys of summer; they are the con artists of the century.
What is pathetic about all of this is lack of responsibility on Sternberg’s part and his complete insensitivity to the problems all of these governments currently face. Talk about self serving and insensitive. Starting a controversy over baseball draws the attention of all of these governments into a pointless and endless round of meetings, discussions, plots and controversy that detract from what is really going on in the Bay area. A serious economic calamity with tourism in the tank, property values plummeting, revenues from all sources down, budgets continuing to implode, and the possibility of a much greater problem if any of that BP oil floats up on the local beaches. Great moment for Stu and his band of money mongers to toss a wrench in everything and throw the baseball thing into the mix.
Acting Hillsboro County Administrator, Michael Merrill; Tampa Mayor, Pam Irio; Pinellas County Administrator, Bob Lasalla; and St. Petersburg Mayor, Bill Foster, are all starting to look like players in a puppet show with Stu manipulating the strings. Stu’s timing is impeccable. Foster is in love with baseball and while can’t hardly keep his eye on anything let alone the ball, he really feels strongly about the baseball issue. It is something he actually understands. Foster does not want to lose the Rays on his watch. Bill will unwittingly set the stage and keep the Sternberg show going as Stu plays one off against the other. See Foster’s latest response to the Rays.
I have never thought that St. Petersburg was a real major league city. Just a great town with a major league baseball team. I don’t buy their supporters’ statement of economic impact and would like to see some real audited numbers. Where are all of those businesses that were going to develop around the Trop?
Unless we are ready to bring Rick Dodge back and set him up with the old team (Mussett et al) who were capable of actually dealing with MLB, then I think all of the area local governments should take a big step back, thank Stu for his efforts to date and tell him we will take all of this up in about three or four years when things are turning around. If he tries to walk out of town, sue his ass off.