“It’s pretty clear people did not want a ballpark down there,” Tampa Rays senior vice president Michael Kalt told the St. Petersberg Times’ Aaron Sharockman of opposition to the teams’ plans to build a new open air park at the site of Al Lang Stadium. “From what we’re seeing, we’re probably in that camp, too.”
The Rays says they took a gamble on the Al Lang waterfront location when it was first proposed in November 2007. It was the cheapest site to build on and team officials hoped a stylized stadium and iconic roof would lure people and businesses downtown.
Support for the project, marginal at best even in its infancy, began to fully erode once the team postponed indefinitely a November 2008 referendum on the proposal.
Demographic information trickled out supporting a location further north and skepticism grew about the design of the proposed roof “ which would have not been fully enclosed like Tropicana Field.
“I think they thought everyone would fall in love with their idea, and we didn’t,” said City Council member and mayoral candidate Jamie Bennett, who is proposing an amendment to the City Charter to protect Al Lang Field from public development.
The city is in the process of rezoning the site as parkland and will consider a 75-foot height limit. City Council members could approve both measures next month.
Those who fought the plan most aggressively cheered the Rays’ retreat on Friday.
“It’s very good,” said Hal Freedman, who founded the group Preserve Our Wallets and Waterfront. “Our aim was to preserve both the waterfront and taxpayer wallets. Not having the waterfront stadium goes a long way to one of our two goals.”