Developer’s plans to build Rays stadium over Channelside faces skepticism

Developer’s plans to build Rays stadium over Channelside faces skepticism

By Susan Thurston, Jamal Thalji and Richard Danielson, Times Staff Writers
Posted: Oct 02, 2012 02:12 PM

On our way to Channelside

Buildings with Sunset Photo

TAMPA — Developer Joel Cantor left his mark on St. Petersburg’s skyline when he built the sail-shaped Signature Place condominium tower amid a recession.

Now he has radical plans for Channelside Bay Plaza: Cantor told the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday that he wants to buy and raze the struggling entertainment complex so he can build a baseball stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays in downtown Tampa.

Few, though, are buying his latest idea.

Cantor said that a 33,000-seat stadium could fit on the waterfront site, much like AT&T Park in San Francisco where the Giants play.

“Surprisingly, the dimensions fit on the water,” he said. “It’s obviously a big project, and it’s a long shot. But we came to the conclusion that it would be the ideal site for a baseball stadium.

“It would be a tremendous catalyst to rejuvenating downtown Tampa.”

There’s no lack of obstacles, however. A group led by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has the inside track to buy Channelside and is close to a deal.

Then there’s the Tampa Port Authority’s governing board, which would have to approve any deal. Their reaction — to put it mildly — was skeptical.

Port commissioner Lawrence Shipp laughed for a full minute after a Times reporter told him about it. He said a stadium can’t fit on Channelside’s footprint.

“I don’t think they’ve invented miniature baseball yet,”
Shipp said.

“I think you could hit a home run every time,” said Port Board Chairman William “Hoe” Brown.

Then there was this reaction: “They’re smoking some pretty good stuff,” said Tampa City Council Chairman Charlie Miranda, who added that the city has no business talking stadiums while St. Petersburg has a contract with the Rays. “What’s the outfield going to be? A cruise ship?”

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