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Gimme shelter – and a stadium

Roy Peter Clark



There's a lot of room to shelter hurricane victims at Tropicana Field. Photo by Mark Parker.

Welcome to the Catalyst’s Community Voices platform. We’ve curated community leaders and thinkers from all parts of our great city to speak on issues that affect us all. Visit our Community Voices page for more details.

In a recent edition of the Catalyst, I noticed two important items at the top: A description of the nifty features of the proposed new baseball stadium in St. Pete; and the predictions of a very busy hurricane season ahead of us, including a few major storms.

Stadiums and storms. What do they have to do with each other?

I may be one of the few folks in town who has adopted a neutral stance on the complex issues surrounding the use of public money to fund a new sports stadium. As a Rays fan and busy citizen, I would enjoy a new stadium and the full development of the Gas Plant district.

But if there were no stadium, and the team searched for a new home, maybe as the Las Vegas Rays, I think our fair city will do fine, and that downtown development will roar on unabated.  The only ones to get screwed will be those of use looking for a parking place near our favorite coffee shop.

Team stays? I’m OK.

Team leaves? Still OK.

But then I imagined those hurricanes, and the receding coastlines, and climate emergencies, and I had this thought: Could the development of the district, including the stadium, create the best mega-shelter on the face of the planet?

I did not make up the word mega-shelter. It is a term of art associated with stadium construction, urban planning, and redevelopment. There is an expansive literature related to the best standards and practices, both in construction, infrastructure, public safety, and the collaboration of governmental and health care institutions.

FEMA and the Red Cross have even published a planning document in support of mega-shelters.  It is here:  https://www.fema.gov/pdf/emergency/disasterhousing/mspg.pdf

I am no engineer, but it appears that the land around the proposed district sits about 50 feet above sea level.

Of course, when we think of hurricanes and stadiums, our minds may take us back to 2005 when Hurricane Katrina swamped New Orleans. Thousands of displaced folks, without transportation to get away, wound up at the Super Dome. With damage from the storm, with the lack of preparation and proper infrastructure, the experience of evacuees inside the Dome was horrific. But many lessons have been learned since then that could be work at a new stadium – if applied from the beginning.

Perhaps those who most object to the new stadium might come around to a proposal that includes shelters for everyone in need. If the big one hits – and you know it will – the homeless, the displaced, the hospitalized, those cut off from the bridges, the elderly and disabled, and those millionaires at the top of those shiny condo towers. They will all need a place to shelter along with my cat Duchess.

The storm will pass. We’ll clean out the mess. And before you know it, a stentorian voice will call “Play Ball!” Let’s go, Rays.

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  1. Avatar

    Kathleen McDole

    June 10, 2024at7:28 am

    I agree with you Peter. Growing up on St Pete Beach one block from the Don CeSar Hotel I know how that feels. It was always our family’s safe place if the big one hit!

  2. Avatar

    Richard Ulrich

    June 3, 2024at9:00 pm

    If “lessons have been learned since then (Hurricane Katrina Superdome) that could be work at a new stadium – if applied from the beginning”, I’d be for it. I just don’t have any faith in those powers that are doing the planning to learn the lessons of the past.

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