Four months ago, Mayor Rick Kriseman called a press conference Tropicana Field to blast the Tampa Bay Rays for their proposal to redevelop the 86-acre site, saying it amounted to “giving the city away” when the team would spend half its season in Canada.
But in the latest Political Party with Adam Smith episode, city council member Robert Blackmon called the Rays’ private offer “absolutely a killer deal” that Kriseman was wrong to reject.
Currently, the Rays until the end of the 2027 season are entitled to half the revenue generated from redeveloping the property. Kriseman in January said the Rays proposed taking full control of 50 acres east of Booker Creek. The team would take 100 percent of the development rights for that land and retain 50 percent of the development rights on the remaining acreage, while splitting its season between Montreal and St. Petersburg.
“They’re willing to make up for that deficit (in St. Petersburg games) by committing to bring the Rowdies to a new Tropicana Field stadium, and they’re willing to bring spring training,” Blackmon said on Political Party. “But the importance to me of bringing the Rowdies there is the consolidation, so you’ve turned an 86-acre site into a 96-acre site because you get all the 10 acres-plus from the Al Lang site that gets to be redeveloped.”
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Blackmon frequently butts heads with the Kriseman administration, though he said he has great respect for the mayor. He said he is hoping to torpedo another big Kriseman-led project: redeveloping the 11-story Municipal Services Center on central Avenue and Fourth Street and moving city services across from city hall a few blocks away. Blackmon wants most of those city offices to be moved to the largely vacant Tangerine Plaza on 18th Avenue and 22nd Street S, which he says would save taxpayer dollars and help the neighborhoods around Tangerine Plaza.
He dismissed the suggestion that his proposal was dead on arrival.
“At the end of the day, any deal has to be brought before council. So what is my role right now if I want to see my plan done? My role is not to sell people on my plan, it’s to show how flawed the current plan is,” he said.
Candidates for city offices have until June 18 to qualify, and Blackmon kept the door open for running for mayor. The best known announced mayoral candidates so far include former city council member and state rep. Wengay Newton, City Council member Darden Rice, and former County Commissioner Ken Welch.
“It’s something I’ve been looking at, it’s something I’ll continue to look at. If there’s a demand there, I think I can fill a void, then yeah, I’ll get in,” said Blackmon, who would have to give up his council seat if he ran.
“Maybe I don’t get in, but I certainly think there are some viewpoints that are being overlooked right now,” he added.
Contact Adam Smith at email@example.com.
Disclosure: Adam Smith is helping the Ken Welch campaign.