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Toytown Braves park on hold pending St. Pete City Council decision on Rays deal

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Building a stadium for the Atlanta Braves to use for Spring Training is likely hinged on what St. Pete City Council decides on the long-looming Tampa Bay Rays issue.

The Braves are interested in playing ball in St. Pete during training season, but Pinellas county commissioners are in a pickle over whether or not to support plans to build them a facility at the Toytown lot that used to be a landfill.

Here’s the deal. Building a sports complex for the Braves would cost more than $11 million a year for 30 years. That’s money that could be used to help fund a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays should they stay in Pinellas County.

But the Commission can’t commit to both.

In what turned out to be a revealing conversation Tuesday about the possibility of Braves Spring Training, Pinellas county commissioners hesitated to back the proposed $662 million Braves Spring Training Park because they didn’t know whether St. Pete City Council would eventually reach a deal allowing the team to look for alternative sites.

That hesitation hints commissioners are leaning toward funding a new stadium in order to keep the Rays on this side of the Bay.

Instead, commissioners tabled the conversation until November. That’s convenient timing considering the contest between Lisa Wheeler-Brown and Will Newton for City Council will be decided November 3. If Wheeler-Brown wins that election, the city is more likely to reach a deal because she has offered support to the most recent version of a deal. The council member she would replace — Wengay Newton — is a staunch opponent of the mayor’s deal.

And commissioners may well know what to expect before then. City Council chair Charlie Gerdes is working up a compromise he thinks will get the five votes necessary to pass an agreement.

The issue could also light a fire for City Council members reluctant to accept a proposal if there is a credible risk of losing potential funding for a new stadium that could ultimately shut down any plans to develop in St. Pete.

Information from the Tampa Bay Times was used in this article.

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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