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    Letters to the Editors

    New stadium needed to help Clearwater thrive

    © St. Petersburg Times, published September 29, 2000

    Re: Mayor leads Clearwater into debt letter, Sept. 17.

    As president of the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce, I feel compelled to respond to the recent letter criticizing Clearwater Mayor Brian Aungst for his role in helping to fund a new stadium for the Phillies.

    The writer refers to a "blank check" being given to the Phillies for the project. This is just another case of a misinformed citizen not taking the time to look at the funding agreement. If he had, he would have seen that the city's commitment is for $5-million. Period. All cost overruns are the responsibility of the Phillies.

    That aside, I would like to make some specific points regarding the new stadium. First, I have heard people say that the Phillies are not a tourist attraction. After talking to many hotel owners on the beach, I will tell you that in the last decade there has only been one year when the beach had fewer tourists than the year before. That year was 1995 -- the year of the baseball strike.

    Second, the Florida Legislature approved the use of state funds to maintain Major League spring training in Florida by a unanimous vote. That money will be spent somewhere in Florida and -- thanks to the entire Clearwater City Commission, the entire Tourist Development Council and the entire Pinellas County Commission (all voted unanimously) -- Clearwater will be a benefactor of this state funding.

    Finally, I must point out that the business of Clearwater is tourism. It is the job of the City Commission to make sure there are more things for tourists to do when they come to Clearwater, not fewer things. I congratulate not only Mayor Aungst but every person who had a hand in insuring that the Phillies will remain a part of our community for at least the next 20 years.

    I urge these same people to continue their good work in helping to make Clearwater Beach the premier tourist destination in Florida.
    -- Louis Piano, president, Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce

    Proposed sites for new stadium have wrinkles that need ironing

    Re: A downtown stadium would benefit everyone, and Downtown would be a natural location for sports venue, Sept. 28 letters.

    Well-written letters with many good points. They convinced me of the positive aspects of having our stadium downtown.

    The questions that concern me are the following:

    1) How will we finance this project that would cost many times the present proposed budget if it were moved to a downtown site?

    2) If, say, the proposal was to be on the bluff south of Cleveland Street and to include the historically significant Baptist church as part of the stadium structure, won't we have to go through another referendum for this?

    3) If so, do we want to go through another referendum?

    Another letter writer suggests Clearwater Mall as a location. I disagree with the suggestion that the present choice of site is due to "the mayor, who is an executive" with a company whose site is "across the street from the stadium site." I hardly believe that this fact ever went into the choice, and it seems to be a cheap shot at Mayor Brian Aungst.

    Two simple facts have more weight than the one mentioned: the Phillies spring training facility sits adjacent to the present choice of site; and this open land, more easily developed than others (cost is always a factor).

    I strongly support the proposed new Phillies stadium in Clearwater. I also support the many residents of College Hill. If this stadium is to be built at the Drew Street location, all of their concerns must be addressed properly.

    The bottom line is that our city can only be as strong as each of its neighborhoods; and tearing up neighborhoods is not in the best interest of any government. If College Hill's problems are satisfactorily addressed, the Drew Street site will be a very good choice for a spring training complex.

    Unfortunately, this will further decentralize our downtown and city. If the liability and the risk end up to be much higher at the Drew Street site, then the cost of building it downtown may not be so great; and the positive effects on all of Clearwater will be much greater.
    -- Ric Ortega, Clearwater

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