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Local media coverage of Rays stadium saga shows desperation

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

It may not be the biggest or most breaking news, but locally it’s the St. Pete City Council workshop talking about the Tampa Bay Rays and its current use agreement barring them from looking at stadium sites outside of St. Pete.

The outcome of that meeting, though not binding, was telling of the city’s next steps. Council is deadlocked on moving forward with a brokered agreement between Mayor Rick Kriseman and the Rays to lift that ban and allow them to consider regional stadium options.

If an official City Council vote were to take place, the Memorandum of Understanding would fail. This is damning news to many who see the continued stalemate, now seven years running, as a nail in the coffin for baseball in Tampa Bay.

And coverage in the local media shows that desperation.

An editorial in the Times Thursday before the workshop meeting called on the five council members – Wengay Newton, Steve Kornell, Jim Kennedy, Bill Dudley and Amy Foster – to listen to logic and reason and hold the city’s best interests above ideology. Foster did just that, but she was the only one. Two converts were needed and Kriseman and the Rays didn’t get it.

In a follow-up column Friday morning by John Romano, he points out the council members rooting for the MOU should feel slighted. He wrote that “council needs to grow up” and lays out three black and white scenarios.

That includes Council approval of the MOU with an outcome being either no more baseball in St. Pete, but 80 acres of readily developable land or 70-some acres of land and baseball stays in St. Pete. Or, City Council could continue to hold the Rays’ feet to the fire and force them to live out the contract, meaning no development of Tropicana Field land until the use agreement expires in 2027.

Romano postulates that the first two options sure sound a lot better than the third.

Meanwhile, WTSP investigative reporter Noah Pransky reported a series of tweets showed photos of Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre took a little trip to New York to meet with Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred.

This builds on already mounting speculation that if the Rays don’t stay in Tampa Bay, Montreal seems a viable option.

While the Times has been vocal in its support of Mayor Rick Kriseman’s MOU and has staunchly criticized naysayers, other media outlets are sticking to merely reporting the details.

In Pransky’s Shadow of the Stadium blog, he gives an ongoing, in-depth series of reports on meetings, updates and various speculations in the baseball world. The Tampa Tribune covered the Thursday meeting, but did not offer an editorial opinion.

It’s not clear what the next steps are in the Rays stadium saga. Council debated asking city staff to conduct an economic impact study either independently or through the Urban Land Institute. The ULI study failed to get support from a majority of council and Kriseman has said he’s unwilling to dedicate staff resources to an independent study.

From here the main concerns continue to be whether continued inaction will lead to a baseball-less Tampa Bay. As City Council member Darden Rice pointed out during the Thursday workshop, the longer the city waits, the less bargaining power they have with the Rays.

And the Rays have already said they won’t participate in open dialogue during public meetings any more. No one from the team’s management attended the Council workshop.

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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