“That’s an interesting suggestion.”
That was St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster’s response when told that a Hillsborough County Commissioner proposed trading a big chunk of Tampa’s cruise industry for the Tampa Bay Rays. It was also the most positive thing we have ever heard Mayor Foster say about the Rays stadium situation.
We have long suggested that St. Pete would need something tangible to loosen their grip on the Rays, rather than just a big fat check. We had proposed moving the Rays’ triple-A operations to St. Pete. But the cruise industry makes more sense.
Within the next five years or so, most of the midsize cruise ships that currently service the Tampa port will be switched to the new megaships. They are too tall to fit through the 182.5 feet available under the Skyway bridge to get to the current terminal near Channelside in Tampa…Officials have to come up with some way to accommodate the larger ships or risk losing the cruise business altogether.
One suggestion has a new terminal being built west of the Skyway on land that is still technically within Hillsborough County. However, because of the location, most tourists would choose to stay in St. Pete before and/or after their trip.
Elizabeth Behrman and Bill Varian, a decision must be made on the cruise industry in the next five years. Meanwhile, a decision on the Rays probably needs to be made in the next 12-18 months.