City of Oldsmar officials are going all-in in their attempt to lure the Tampa Bay Rays to town, as evidenced by this picture that was used for the city’s 2016 holiday card.
What began as somewhat of a joke by Mayor Doug Bevis recently became official, as the Oldsmar City Council agreed to create a task force, led by the mayor, to let everyone know the city is all-in when it comes to landing the Tampa Bay Rays.
The idea that city officials should present a united front whenever discussing the proposed plan to build a multi-purpose complex, including a Major League Baseball stadium, on a vacant parcel of land across from Tampa Bay Downs, was initially proposed by Vice-Mayor Eric Seidel during the Feb. 7 council meeting.
Oldsmar City Council member Jerry Beverland.
The item was put on the agenda for discussion on Tuesday, and although the task force idea was unanimously supported, one council member objected to how the pursuit of the team has developed.
“I’m glad this is finally coming before Council, but I think we put the cart out there somewhere and we haven’t found the horse yet,” Jerry Beverland said.
“This should have never started, I don’t believe, until it came to Council first.”
Beverland, a longtime local politician and city historian, said he’s not against the idea of trying to bring the team to town, but he believes the issue should’ve been addressed in a formal council setting prior to this week.
“I have a lot of questions, and I have to protect my vote as a council member of the city of Oldsmar,” he said, noting two key sticking points with the proposal include getting landowner Stella Thayer’s consent to move forward with the project and the fact that the existing Duke Energy power lines would run “right through the middle of centerfield” of the new stadium.
Oldsmar Vice-Mayor Eric Seidel.
“You can’t just move those power lines,” he said.
Seidel didn’t dispute Beverland’s assertions, and he admitted many issues still need to be addressed.
But he said everything that has happened so far – from the mayor initially getting the word out that the city was interested in bringing the Rays to town, to holding formal press conferences and meetings with county and team executives — happened organically.
“I don’t disagree with you, but it just kind of unfolded this way” Seidel said.
“But I don’t know that there was another way that could’ve been better. Perhaps there could’ve been.”
Mayor Bevis concurred, saying, “I don’t think we planned for this to happen,” adding that he would take full responsibility for how the whole sequence of events unfolded.
Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis sporting a Tampa Bay Rays hat in December 2016.
“I think actually it probably unfolded exactly right, because our last meeting was the first council meeting after our second meeting with the Rays where they said we wouldn’t have brought you in here if we weren’t in the hunt,” Bevis said. “So I think it worked out good.”
Council members Gabby McGee and Dan Saracki agreed, and the discussion eventually steered back to the makeup of the task force, with the mayor asking the other council members what they believe the composition of the committee should be.
While there was no clear consensus, local and regional businesses such as Westfield Countryside Mall, Nielsen and Lockheed Martin, as well as Chamber of Commerce officials, city staff members and community leaders, were mentioned as potential targets.
After the meeting, the mayor spoke about the latest developments in what has already been a strange and wild journey.
“I’ve been talking about this for six months, something that says who our partners are,” Bevis said.
“Now we need to reach out to the chamber and local business leaders and figure out how we are baking this cake and what’s our objective.”