A new private (for the moment) plan to build a new stadium may be just the catalyst to get things off dead center.
But is Gateway the best place?
You live in Pinellas County or Manatee County and work in Tampa. You are going to face a horrendous traffic nightmare every time the Rays play an evening home game. There are not enough roads and bridges to handle all of the traffic efficiently even if you use all three bridges as part of the equation. It would not seem possible to build an off ramp large enough to handle the stadium back up. Once again the Howard Franklin would become the "Car Strangled Spanner.”
A lot of the same people who ballyhoo the tourist industry as part of the Tampa Bay economy are deep in the stadium issue. Consider a family of four who have just flown into Tampa International on Friday arriving about 5:00PM, get a rental car and spend the next 2-3 hours on the Howard Frankland or Courtney Campbell Causeway trying to get to their hotel on the beach. Sounds like a setup for another of those "Least Friendly" awards.
One of the really great things about this area is the Tampa International Airport and the ability to get to and from it for both tourist and business travelers. Placing a baseball stadium right in the middle of access to that benefit seems like an incredibly bad idea. If we want to continue to tout this area as a place for high tech business investment, good airport access is much more important than a baseball stadium.
And speaking of roads, just who will be picking up the tab for the massive exits, entrances, ramps and other road improvements required to support the Echelon plan? (Hint: Go look in the mirror).
A stadium on the other side of the bridges where the it does not impact interstate rush hour commuter traffic flow and baseball traffic is generally using the lower volume side of the Interstate system to get to the games seems like a much better all-around approach.
For now it is an interesting conversation piece, but it's much more about finding a use for piece of Echelon property that has not developed as expected than it is about saving the Rays for St. Pete. It might also be a good idea to go back and look at the City's box score in dealing with Echelon. I don't believe the City is leading in that series.
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