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.