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
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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