Local Developer Darryl LeClair organized an outstanding presentation of a new Rays Stadium concept at Carillon on Friday. The proposal is for a large transparent and retractable roof stadium with office, hotel and residential space incorporated into the perimeter of the ball park. That $577 million, 1.6 million square feet of development is what offers the opportunity for this proposal to be a success for everyone – especially the taxpayers. The days of publicly financed stadiums are ending and the inclusion of commercial space for lease as well as hotel space can mean a revenue stream for whoever owns the complex, thus ensuring the project does not require direct taxpayer subsidization. Of course, there are many key ingredients that are still in question. First and foremost, are the Rays interested? Will the Rays buy the site and develop it on their own dime or cobble together a group of developers who will? Will the taxpayers be left holding the bag for the bond costs on the old Tropicana field? Will the City Leaders allow the discussion that will both protect the taxpayers in the current Rays contract with St. Petersburg and allow possible progress to end this saga? Will the Rays and the local business community realize they gain more by having NO taxpayer subsidization and stop demanding the same?
The Presentation included outstanding data showing that the drive times for Carillon are the only ones that meet Major League Baseball’s indication that a new site should have a 30 minute drive time at peak hours. Sites at Dale Mabry and Channelside certainly can’t do that. The site also had an advantage of a higher income population, more local businesses and a central location for Pinellas and Hillsborough. Videos of cars backed up to the Hump of the Howard Franklin on their way to Tampa helped the case for Carillon, especially when the cars at the same time (about 5 pm) were travelling briskly into Pinellas. The proposed site would require three new lanes traveling west toward Clearwater and a new lane heading north on Roosevelt with several new entrances to be built into Carillon. That is the proper role for city subsidization – building the infrastructure and roads. By the way, it is a way for the new Stadium to pay its own way too since they can begin to pay property taxes for the same at some point, preferably from the beginning. However, it is likely that a deal to save Taxpayers money on the possible decommissioning of Tropicana Field, will end up costing some taxpayer money up front. The goal should be to get the taxpayer contribution to this private venture as close to zero as possible. The Stadium at Carillon presents the opportunity to get the taxpayer contribution near zero and establish a new model of building sports stadiums in America.