Oldsmar officials acknowledge Rays stadium dream is basically dead

A conceptual rendering of the proposed Oldsmar Rays stadium and mixed-use development proposal, which includes a 30,000-seat baseball stadium as well as office, entertainment, residential and hotel space, on 120 acres across from Tampa Bay Downs. (Graphic: FSA, Inc.)

A conceptual rendering of the proposed Oldsmar Rays stadium and mixed-use development proposal, which includes a 30,000-seat baseball stadium as well as office, entertainment, residential and hotel space, on 120 acres across from Tampa Bay Downs. (Graphic: FSA, Inc.)

One of the underlying themes of the City of Oldsmar officials’ yearlong attempt to lure the Tampa Bay Rays to town was the fact that the idea was always considered to be a longshot, at best.

However, that didn’t stop Mayor Doug Bevis from pushing his proposal to everyone who would listen, including Pinellas and Hillsborough county commissioners and officials from St. Pete’s Major League Baseball team, in the hope that, if nothing else, the high-level networking would help put his burgeoning bedroom community at the top of Old Tampa Bay on the map.

Oldsmar City Council member Eric Seidel.

Oldsmar City Council member Eric Seidel.

But dissent towards the city’s pursuit of the Rays had been building recently, and on Tuesday night, Bevis’ dream of building a 30,000-seat stadium and mixed-use development featuring retail, restaurant, hotel and office space on 120 acres across from Tampa Bay Downs essentially died, as Council member Eric Seidel publicly stated what everyone already knew: Oldsmar is not getting the Rays.

“I think that our efforts, the mayor’s efforts, especially, and the city manager’s and everyone who has worked on promoting us going after the Rays, has done a lot of good things for this city,” Seidel said during his Council Comments at the end of the April 18 City Council meeting. “I think it has raised the profile of our city. I think whether you’re a fan of it or not, it certainly raised the profile in a very positive way.”

“So I hate to be the one to say this, but I don’t think anybody is going to be surprised by it: we’re not getting the Rays,” he continued.

“I think it’s been great for the city, I applaud our efforts, but I also think it might be becoming a distraction…and I am in favor of us having a discussion about suspending our efforts to try to bring the Rays here to the City of Oldsmar.”

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis.

Council member Jerry Beverland concurred with Seidel, saying, “they ain’t gonna come here.”

But Bevis refused to throw in the towel, especially in light of the fact that team officials recently announced the stadium decision would be delayed until the end of the year.

“I agree with a lot of what you said…but I don’t think it’s completely dead,” the mayor responded.

“I don’t know that expending any more effort, it’s not like we’re trying to get noticed. We’re well known. We’ve raised the profile of (Oldsmar). They know we’re here.”

Oldsmar City Council member Jerry Beverland.

Oldsmar City Council member Jerry Beverland.

“We have built a tremendous amount of momentum for the City of Oldsmar, and maybe we just put the car in neutral and let it just continue on the path that it has…and play it out.”

Council member Gabby McGee supported the mayor’s suggestion, stating, “I don’t think it hurts us to continue to push it.”

But Beverland and Seidel both steadfastly said they believed it was in the city’s best interest to put the matter to bed once and for all.

“Let’s move on,” Beverland said, adding, “we’ve got bigger fish to fry.”

“I just think it’s a distraction,” Seidel said. “Why are we wasting our time? There’s no good that comes from some of our citizens being concerned about something that’s…”

“…not going to happen,” Beverland finished.

The mayor reiterated his position to stand pat and wait for the team’s next move, noting they recently launched a webpage dedicated to the stadium effort, complete with FAQs and a video of architect Francisco Semsch’s original presentation of the proposal in October.

City of Oldsmar officials posed in Rays caps for their annual holiday card photo in 2016, a sign that they were getting serious about bringing the Major League Baseball team to town.

City of Oldsmar officials posed in Rays caps for their annual holiday card photo in 2016, a sign that they were getting serious about bringing the Major League Baseball team to town.

After the meeting, Mayor Bevis elaborated on the hot-button topic.

“Like I said earlier, I think we should put the car in neutral,” Bevis told Oldsmar Connect. “The car has a lot of momentum, but what more can we do? The people who need to know about us—the Rays—do, and ultimately, it’s their decision.”

“We always knew we were an outside shot, but we felt we had a shot,” he added. “Now the ball is in their field.”

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