No sweetheart deal afoot for stadium, team says

The Rays deny allegations of bid rigging.

By Aaron Sharockman, Times Staff Writer
Published March 9, 2008

ST. PETERSBURG - Responding to an allegation that the Tampa Bay Rays illegally lobbied the City Council, team executives on Saturday said that a group opposed to a new waterfront stadium will say or do anything to derail the plan.

The latest example, according to Rays senior vice president Michael Kalt, is the suggestion that the team is attempting to rig the city's bidding process for developers interested in purchasing Tropicana Field and its parking lots.

Former City Council member Kathleen Ford, an opponent of the stadium plan, said last week that Rays executives are trying to ensure the developer they're working with, Hines Interests, gets the job.

That could not be further from the truth, Kalt said Saturday.

"There is no benefit to us having only one bidder," Kalt said. "Every time we hear somebody else may bid ... we literally do a dance."

Kalt said Ford and her group, St. Pete Preserve Our Wallets and Waterfront, are trying to scare off potential bidders. Developers have until March 18 to make an offer to the city.

"They're out there spreading things that are flat-out lies," Kalt said.