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Roundup 6-10-2016

June 10, 2016

Contents

Transportation – Hopefully, You Can Stop Flogging Now

— Just Do Something, Cont.

— It’s Is Not About Transportation Options or Competitiveness

— Something Still Isn’t Better Than Nothing

— And Also the Poll

— Conclusion

— One More Thing: A Crack In TBX Wall

Built Environment – A Little History

— St. Pete Fees

Built Environment/West Tampa –To Be or Not to Be a City

Transportation – The PTC Stays True to Form

Port – Talk of Big Things

USF – Med School Applications

Rays – Stadium Ideas

Coming Out Watch

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Transportation – Hopefully, You Can Stop Flogging Now

This week, the County Commission held a hearing about putting a 15 (which morphed into 20) year transportation sales tax referendum on the ballot.  We sat through the whole thing, noting that most people did not actually the issues (more on that later).  In the event, the Commission declined to have a referendum for a shorter period. Now, it really is Time to Move On.

However, we thought Go Hillsborough died the first time it was rejected, but it came back.  Now, it has been shot down again.  Even though some of this item has been overtaken by events in the immediate time frame, we decided to post it anyway because we suspect it will apply equally to future plans, discussions, and arguments.  If it is a little stilted in parts, it is because we were rewriting it as the public hearing went along, and we apologize.

— Just Do Something, Cont.

Last week we pointed out that it is not better to just do something rather than take some time and do the right thing.  We noted that it seemed that the Chamber of Commerce (and, probably not surprisingly, many elected officials) seemed to think we just needed to do something, anything.  This week, the Chamber of Commerce spoke asking their members to lobby for a 20 year plan.  They included some talking points for their members, who delivered them at the public hearing:

Talking points included:

Read those points carefully. To summarize: we have a lot of people; we will have more people; our transportation is bad now; we need to do something – preferably multimodal.  In other words, what they really want is something other than the limited Go Hillsborough, especially the abridged version. (To us buses plus cars is not really multi-modal – though buses can move more people, they just fill up the roads and leave you stuck in traffic. As noted last week, the streetcar does not need the tax.  A few speakers said that 20 years was the shortest time one could bond and get the downtown to Westshore rail line, which, if true, makes us wonder why the Mayor insisted on 30 years, which may have been better but was not necessary, at the first vote hearing.)

— It’s Is Not About Transportation Options or Competitiveness

We know (most of) the people at the Chamber approached this issue with good intentions, but we are not sure how they got sold on this position.  As we said last week, the Chamber seems to have a “do something, anything” approach that does not even fit the criteria laid out by their own talking points.  That “do something, anything” approach exactly the attitude that has led to the kind of half-measures (like in impact fees, planning, transit) that historically have been used in the Tampa Bay area and which led us to the situation we are in today in the first place.  Such an approach will not fix our problems and will in no way get us close to our competitors.

Just imagine the up and coming young professionals/tech people considering San Diego, Austin or Denver and Tampa.  How does Go Hillsborough do anything to make them want to come here?  It does nothing – no real transit, no urban development, no TOD because there is no transit that will create demand.  Nothing. (And are major corporations going to be drawn to Tampa because some MetroRapid lines – not even full BRT – and some roads get paved?)

To its credit, the Chamber does not (though some Chamber-button wearing speakers at the public hearing did) really go into detail about attracting jobs and talent because it knows the abrdiged Go Hillsborough plan does nothing about real transportation options (Most Chamber speakers said they hoped that Go Hillsborough’s buses could someday lead to rail. And to that Millennial woman speaker who wants transit from Northdale to South Tampa – sorry, not in Go Hillsborough.)

To be honest, most speakers at the hearing were talking around the issues – pushing transit alternatives (not really in the plan) versus stopping the train (not really in the plan) and other things like that.  Sadly, that is how most of this discussion has gone over the years.  We need to move on from that, too.

— Something Still Isn’t Better Than Nothing

One speaker argued, again, that something is better than nothing.  We will repeat what we said last week – no it isn’t – especially if it involved a sales tax referendum rather than identifying money to make some fixes while we wait for the studies to be completed.  We have built a large mess on half measures, poor plans, dribs and drabs of ideas, bad execution of decent ideas, etc.  We do not need more of the same eating up time and resources.

We need to address transportation in light of all the studies that should be done in two years and come back with a full, coordinated, systematic plan with creative funding that can include but not be solely reliant on a sales tax.  Other options should be considered.

— And Also the Poll

Which brings us to an interesting new poll about the sales tax:

The StPetePolls’ poll was a “robopoll” targeting people who voted in at least one of the last two general elections. Its conclusions:

Edwards, however, said the poll showed that pro-tax voters are too divided to agree on one plan. Those who support a larger, more expensive plan such as a full-cent tax, Edwards said, would not support a smaller plan, suggesting no single tax plan can carry a majority.

The poll had 1,055 respondents and a 3-point error margin.

We think with the mess of TED/PLC/Go Hillsborough, the lack of a vision, lack of details on Tampa’s ideas, lack of commitment from the County Commission, and all around lack of leadership from elected officials, it is unlikely a tax would pass this year.  But that is not the whole story.

Someone showed us the poll results. The Times article does not say this but, even with all the mess created by local officials, most people polled were “not familiar” with Go Hillsborough. (So much for outreach.)

And, more interestingly, the poll also had a question about whether inclusion of rail would make someone more or less likely to vote for a tax.  The majority said it would make them more likely – and by more than 10 points over those who said it would make them less likely. (This seems to comport with most of the comments from Millennials, and others, with Chamber of Commerce buttons)

We don’t necessarily want a full cent.  We are ok with a ½ cent with a real plan for real transit, even if it is (clearly) phased. We are ok with other funding sources.  We are not for 15 or 20 years, and we really aren’t for Go Hillsborough, though we remained ambivalent based on the idea that our local government couldn’t do any better.  But it can – if it wants.  Or we can change it.  Either way, what is on offer now – 15 or 20 years of paving priorities just to say we are doing something – is not acceptable.

While polls can be inaccurate, this is the second poll (the other was the Chamber’s poll) that says we should go big, not push a pothole tax.  It does not say water down an already watered down proposal, which makes the Chamber’s position even more odd.

We need to stop dithering with poor plans. We can do better. We must do better.

— Conclusion

We are not against the idea of referendum, especially on taxes.  We are not against raising taxes to have proper infrastructure investment.  We are not opposed to transit.  We are also not opposed to fixing roads (though routine maintenance should be a normal budget item and we should look to more alternatives than road widening).  We are not against highways – though we think TBX is wasteful and oppose variable rate toll lanes.  The fact is, we are not against fixing our problems.  We are in favor of comprehensive solutions.  We oppose half of a half solution.

So, this is what we say about Go Hillsborough: Let it go once and for all.

Contrary to some Commissioners positions, our objection to half a Go Hillsborough is not just about funding sources – it is also about the plan.  We need real transit alternatives, not the chimera of alternatives in Go Hillsborough.  Yes, our government spent three years on Go Hillsborough, but it has wasted decades when we could have had a built out transit system.  We now can look at alternative funding sources and form an integrated, systematic and comprehensive plan.

We can go big. We can do better than simply seeking the least common denominator, which was Go Hillsborough was.  Frankly, we must do better than the least common denominator if we ever want to really assume our place among major metro areas. We do not have to, and if we want to really thrive can’t afford to, settle.

— One More Thing: A Crack In TBX Wall

Speaking of doing better, this week was a bit interesting regarding TBX in that the mostly (yes, the Tampa City Council voted against it) solid wall of local officials and politicos supporting it cracked:

Opponents of Tampa Bay Express now have a powerful ally who also wants to squash the $6 billion plan: Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller.

Miller said Monday that he will vote against the project known as TBX — a plan to add express toll lanes to Tampa Bay’s interstates — and there’s nothing that the Florida Department of Transportation can say at this point to change his mind.

“I agree with the people that don’t want this and they don’t think they should have this in the neighborhood without a complete study done,” Miller said. “People just feel like it’s going to destroy their neighborhood. Tampa Heights, Seminole Heights. Even though they’re older they’re transforming into vibrant communities.”

Miller is an influential voice: He is chairman of the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization, the body that will decide June 22 whether to keep TBX on its five-year list of funding priorities. He also represents many of the Tampa communities that will be heavily affected by new lanes and other construction.

And we agree with him.  There should be a full highway study involving alternative road alignments, HOV, HOT, etc., and it should be coordinated with the transit study.  That should be done.  Will it? Doubtful. And surely FDOT will punish dissent, as they threaten, unless the legislative delegation threatens to punish FDOT, which is not very likely given past behavior.

So, we commend him.  He is right.  We’ll see if it matters at all.

Built Environment – A Little History

There was a nice article in the Creative Loafing about redevelopment efforts around Franklin Street in Tampa Heights (just north of 275).  And we are all for that.  However, at the beginning of the article there was a little bit of a confusing history that we think needs to be set straight.

A metamorphosis is taking place along Franklin Street. Just north of downtown Tampa, empty warehouses and abandoned commercial spaces are awakening to a fresh new life.

Once downtown’s main retail artery, Franklin Street ran north-south until it was severed in the ’60s at the interstate. It was reconnected four decades later when pioneers like CPA Lou Prida, architect Stephanie Ferrell and Fly Bar & Restaurant discovered new uses for aging structures.

After the road was reconnected, the action moved north on Franklin Street as Cafe Hey kicked off its reign as a counter-culture gathering spot, and Carl Johnson and Kate Swann opened Franklin Street Fine Woodworking.

While the interstate did create a psychological barrier (especially for pedestrian traffic) between downtown proper and Tampa Heights, especially in the area around Franklin Street, the interstate was raised and, just as now, you could drive underneath it.  What really cut off Franklin Street even from cars was a very bizarre and poorly designed state office building and surface parking lot, which, apparently, had to be physically connected to the office building without a pesky road to cross.   Said building was supported by the city at the time to help bring pump up northern downtown.  As you can see from the map linked above, it is an awful design that breaks the grid (for no ascertainable reason) and really contributes nothing. That mistake was fixed after the beginning of this century by the previous Mayor, though TBX would make the psychological barrier (and impediment to pedestrians) twice as bad or more.

What is amusing is how hard everyone has tried over the decades to use gimmicks to fix Franklin Street, which used to be the business hub of Tampa (making it a pedestrian mall, opening it up, cutting it off, opening it up, etc).  But, you know what, it is not the business hub of Tampa – not even for weekday lunch.  Tamp Street is – because it has the offices, the businesses, the traffic – the action (even though it is one way, which is wholly irrelevant).

We are all for having Franklin be active.  But the point is that the City helped kill Franklin (it cut if off, it allowed demolition of the really nice old buildings that used to front it, it turned it into a pedestrian mall that no one went to) and the City’s well-intentioned but poorly executed or conceived gimmicks – like putting a poorly designed, unconnected office building surrounded by surface parking half a mile from anything while cutting off the road would really pump up the area) – actually held it back for decades.

What will make/is starting to make Franklin thrive is being surrounded by offices and residences – a/k/a people – (both north and south of I-275) so there is a local market that can be supplemented by people coming into downtown.   Opening the connection under the interstate helps, not that there will be a lot of pedestrian traffic (especially if TBX is built) but every connection makes an area feel a bit more open and accessible.

That should be remembered when you hear about all sorts of planning fads.  Yes, they can work if used in a rational way and in consideration of the axioms of proper city planning, but, just as often, if not more often, planning fads that ignore well known facts (like road diets that ignore the need to get traffic in and out of an area, especially one without any transit) just cause more harm.

— St. Pete Fees

Which brings us to an interesting article in the Times about St. Pete’s fee system.

The issue? Development fees and the lower rate paid by downtown developers.

For City Council member Karl Nurse, who represents downtown, the lower fees are emblematic of skewed city priorities.

“It’s just inherently unfair,” Nurse said at a council committee meeting Thursday. “Essentially what we’re doing is subsidizing downtown redevelopment from the rest of the city.”

Nurse was referring to the city’s transportation impact fees, which are calculated using a formula based on car trips, road capacity and construction costs. Essentially, the fees try to recoup the costs developments have on roads.

But in a memo to Nurse and other council members, transportation director Evan Mory said raising the fees to match those in the rest of the city would risk downtown’s economic hot streak by discouraging further development.

It’s not just downtown that has the lower rates. The poorer neighborhoods in Midtown are included. Other urban centers in Pinellas County also have the low rates.

And?

How low are urban rates? They vary by type of construction. A sit-down restaurant in downtown is assessed $2,181 per 1,000 square feet, compared with $8,205 in most of the city.

That’s because data gathered in 1990 showed that more people drove from their homes to a restaurant in more suburban areas of the city rather than downtown.

An apartment unit costs $972 downtown versus $1,420 in the rest of the city. Condos pay $924 in the downtown and Midtown districts; $1,248 elsewhere.

Dave Goodwin, the city’s planning and economic development director, said the lower fees are designed to contain sprawl, which costs more to support with services than denser development. He also said that new data might show that even more recent development produces fewer car trips and road costs for downtown, which could lower the fees further.

The reason urban areas should have lower transportation impact fees is because they already have the infrastructure, generate fewer trips, and their trips are usually of a shorter distance – thus a lower transportation impact.  (When some of your patrons can walk to your restaurant, you generate fewer trips on the roads – requiring less maintenance of the roads.  When your patrons park and walk around doing a number of tasks, your portion of each trip is less than if they have to drive to your restaurant then drive to the next destination.)  It is not subsidizing the urban area.  The lower fees reflect the lower cost of the infrastructure.

Council member Charlie Gerdes, who represents suburban west St. Petersburg, said the rate should take into account more than car trips and road costs. He argued that downtown’s bike paths, pedestrian improvements and parking came with their own costs that should be reflected in the rates.

Right – so if you pave 100 feet of sidewalk in front of two single family homes it serves how many people?  Maybe 8 to 10 who probably are not walking anywhere anyway.  If you pave 100 feet of sidewalk in front of a 10 story apartment building, you serve far more people.  The cost per person of the sidewalk in the urban area is much lower – and you are taking people off the roads which are far more expensive.

But, hey, if St. Pete wants to change their policy, that is their choice.  It would not be the first local government that was short-sighted and failed to understand proper planning policy.

Built Environment/West Tampa –To Be or Not to Be a City

There was news about a new project for north of Kennedy/West Tampa.

Richman Group, based in Connecticut, has proposed a 218-unit apartment complex at 808 N. Howard Ave., in the North Hyde Park area. The rezoning request details a five-story building built around a five-story parking garage on the 2.8-acre site bound by Howard Avenue to the east, Armenia Avenue to the west, West Lemon Street to the south and West State Street to the north.

Here are renderings they filed (thanks URBN Tampa Bay):

Public record – via URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

and here is a site plan

Public record – via URBN Tampa Bay – click on picture for Facebook page

First, we have to say that some denser development in this corridor is welcome.  It is really crying out for revitalization as a major corridor (with more than some lawyers in renovated houses) all the way to Main Street, and we have nothing against the basic idea of this project.

However, there are a few issues with what we have seen of this project so far.  What you will notice is that not only is there no retail on Howard or Armenia.  There is not even a clear entrance – except a really small door on Howard.  We get that the architecture is generic stick apartments with a parking garage in the middle.  We are not going to get into that – not everything is going to be innovative.  But the building’s treatment of the major streets around it is quite weak.   Buildings should have real entrances. And, in this case, on the major corridors, there should be some retail.  Frankly, the building looks urban but really seems built for cars.

As the Business Journal notes:

As land becomes more scarce — and more expensive — in South Tampa and downtown Tampa, developers are increasingly turning to North Hyde Park as a viable urban infill market.

Indeed.  To a large degree, this area is a blank slate.  But the City has shown very little interest in anything other than ribbon cuttings (“build and consequences be left to someone who comes after I leave office.” And don’t forget this area is already home to many Tampa classics like the fake from door on Howard and one on Willow)  The area north of Kennedy could be quite special – a real urban neighborhood – even area with a mix of uses and apartments and houses.  Or it could just be a jumble – which is where it is going at the moment.  It needs far more attention than it is getting right now.

We can see what happens when you wait south of Kennedy.  The problems on South Howard and areas south of Kennedy do not have to be repeated, but they will be unless the City actually starts caring about more than just filing in lots.  The coming issues are entirely predictable – and easy to address before everything gets built.  They will be much harder later.

Let’s try to not mess it up this time.

Transportation – The PTC Stays True to Form

In another tedious installment of the PTC:

After months of talks with Uber and Lyft, the Public Transportation Commission on Wednesday again declined to approve a provisional agreement that would allow rideshare firms to operate in Hillsborough County.

The deal was negotiated by PTC Board Chairman Victor Crist, who implored the board to approve it.

Instead, the PTC’s governing board voted 4-1 to suspend negotiations and wait for a ruling from the Second District Court of Appeal in Lakeland on whether the county agency has the authority to issue citations to rideshare drivers.

Board members said they could not approve an agreement that did not include a Level II background check for drivers, a measure Uber and Lyft have long opposed. There was also concern about the rideshare firms’ insistence that new drivers get a 42-day grace period to comply with background checks and vehicle inspection rules. The PTC regulates for-hire vehicles in Hillsborough like taxis and limos who have to adhere to those rules.

“We cannot get into the business of people who want to operate in this county dictating to us what they want to do,” said board member Frank Reddick, who is a member of the Tampa City Council.

Sure.  Anyway, there was also news that there are two other ridesharing companies in the market:

San Francisco firm Wingz is launching a major expansion of its airport drop-off and pickup service and has Tampa International Airport on its radar.

There’s also a Tampa rideshare company called DriveSociety set to launch in the next few weeks. The firm will request to take part in drawing up new rideshare regulations at the PTC’s board meeting on Wednesday.

The PTC regulates for-hire vehicles such as taxis and limos in Hillsborough. Both Wingz and DriveSociety say they are amenable to existing PTC rules such as background checks for drivers and vehicle inspections — rules that Uber and Lyft have argued don’t apply to them. To operate in Austin, Wingz agreed to fingerprint-based background checks of its drivers, a requirement that led Uber and Lyft to cease operations in that city.

“If one transportation network company can come into Tampa Bay or Florida and operate legally, then why can’t the others?” asked PTC Executive Director Kyle Cockream.

If those companies do not mind the PTC’s ideas, that is their choice.  Maybe their business model will win out.  That does not make the PTC’s behavior any better or more rational.

Regarding the soon-to-be-gone PTC Director’s comments , one could also ask “If other counties can behave maturely and make deals with Uber and Lyft, why can’t the PTC?” While you’re at it, why did the PTC kill private electric shuttle downtown and keep us without that service for years?

And, of course, if all other counties in the state can survive without a PTC, why are we saddled with one?

We doubt anyone will even try to answer that one.

Port – Talk of Big Things

There was more talk of the Port master plan – but this time it included the port part of it, not the vague vision plan of real estate development.

On Friday, the port invited customers, tenants and people in the shipping and transportation industries to provide their input into the plan. It was one of dozens of discussions held since the master planning process began in 2014.

Sal Kass, general manager of Ports America, which operates container and general cargo terminals at the port, said he liked what he saw. “Being a land-rich port is a big ace card in this industry, and there’s a lot of potential opportunities,” Kass said. “There’s some things in there where I operate where they’re doing some developing, and there’s things in other areas that will support my operations.”

Jim Brennan, a partner with Capstan Consulting, presented about 80 port stakeholders with an overview of the port’s performance and assets, and a series of easels around Cruise Terminal 6 displayed some of the master plan’s major concepts.

That included up to $1.5 billion in capital improvements, including $324 million to $502 million worth of projects in 2017-2021; $367 million to $578 million from 2022 to 2026; and $472 million to $504 million beyond 2027. That money would come from port and state revenues.

That money would pay for everything from $270 million for an East Port landfill and cargo yard expansion to $50 million for gantry cranes and $50 million to widen and deepen the Big Bend channel.

And that is all fine, if it can be used.  We have no objection to investment to increase business.  But there are some issues:

Port Tampa Bay notes that it is facing several challenges including competition for the Interstate 4 market from other ports around the state; increasing ship size that will require continuous infrastructure investment; and the uncertainty of funding sources.

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge, in particular, is a constraint as cruise ships get larger, and is expected to be an obstacle for the port’s future cruise business. In the last fiscal year, the number of cruise ship passengers decreased slightly to 867,114 from 888,343 in the prior fiscal year, a 2 percent drop.

Over the long term, Port Tampa Bay could find new cruise and ferry opportunities if the Cuba market opens up.

“One ferry service a week to Cuba would offset that decline,” said port consultant Jim Brennan, a partner with Capstan Consulting LLC. Yet, he noted “quite frankly, there are so many uncertainties” about Cuba.

Yes, there are.  Nothing can be taken for granted, so assume declining cruise revenue over the medium term. (Hopefully, that won’t happen, but prudence would dictate such an assumption)

Among Port Tampa Bay’s other advantages are its location as the closest port to the newly expanded Panama Canal, its proximity to the middle of Florida and the Tampa region’s density of distribution centers along the I-4 corridor.

Of course, being close to the expanded Panama Canal is not an advantage if the larger ships that will use the canal cannot fit in the Port and have to go to a hub port and transfer the cargo to smaller ships before it comes here.  The proximity to population is good, but we are not without competitors (like Port Canaveral). Nevertheless, at least they are working on a plan.

As for the real estate development part:

The Channelside project is projected to require about $228 million in public investment, with the rest of the development costs — an estimated $1.5 billion — covered by private investors. The public money would come from port revenues and tax revenues generated within the Channel District. 

We think they should let the rest of the proposed development in the area get built and then see. There is no hurry.

We are all for increasing business at the port, and we realize there are issues that need to be dealt with.  One thing really does not need to be pursued right now is real estate development.  Frankly, if the Lightning owner’s project gets fully built out and thrives, the land held by the port will just get more valuable.  We know it is hard, especially for local political actors, to not play developer, but the port’s focus should be firmly on maritime business.

USF – Med School Applications

Once again, the quality of applicants at USF Med School seems to be improving.

The University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine is attracting a larger and higher performing pool of applicants, in part because of the new facilities it plans in downtown, officials said Thursday.

The number of applicants has increased 40 percent over the past two years, with 6,200 students vying for 170 positions this year. And those admitted last year had higher scores on the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT, than any other first-year medical school class in the state.

Charles Lockwood, dean of the college and senior vice president of USF Health, delivered those rosy numbers to the USF Board of Trustees, saying they had significantly improved the school’s rankings on several national reports.

He said the MCAT score, which was an average of 34 out of 45 points, puts USF among the top 20 medical schools in the nation as measured by the Association of American Medical Colleges, which administers the test.

Which is great.

At least this year they said the increase was only “in part” because of a facility that has not even broken ground, as opposed to all of it.  We think a far larger part would be that med schools generally are increasingly competitive, especially for low-priced state school slots in a growing Florida.  And, maybe, the school has gained a good reputation.

We are not sure why the dean keeps talking down his school, relying on things that have not happened yet to justify its increased draw. (And why does he feel the need to keep selling the positives of the downtown project?)  Maybe, the school is just better than he thinks.

Rays – Stadium Ideas

There have been a number of articles about the Rays recently, from possible Hillsborough locations (note: the fairgrounds is a horrible location) to St Pete’s advantages (note: the only one is they have a funding source)  to the Tea Party organizing against funding a stadium.  We could get into that, but we are not that excited by them.  It is quite clear that the dog track or fairgrounds would be bad places for a stadium (and Jefferson is very unlikely) just as it is clear that the Trop is a bad location for a stadium if you want people to actually go there.  The one article that interested us the most had to do with the Rays ruminations about what they want in a stadium.

The Rays are tweaking a pitch to corporate and civic groups, asking them for ideas for a next-generation ballpark that will lure casual fans and satisfy hard-core aficionados.

Rays executives want a stadium without the shrine mystique of many baseball parks. Instead, they’re exploring ways to draw casual or nonbaseball fans to the park and make money off them all year long — not just 81 days a year. 

We get that the Rays want a stadium that draws people year round.  However, we are not sure why they would not want the “shrine mystique” that makes people want to come see a stadium year round. No one is avoiding the Cubs, Red Sox, Orioles or Giants because their stadiums are too traditional. (In fact, people go to their stadiums, weather permitting, year round just to see them.) Anyway, what are they considering?

Some ideas? Cooking classes in the concession kitchens. Opening up parts of the clubhouse and training areas to the public, perhaps a workout area with players and weekend warriors separated by glass.

Um, ok, but the cooking area of most concession areas isn’t really where you would have a cooking class and working out with athletes in a glass box is a bit odd.  But, hey, we suppose it is a matter of taste.  What else?

Part sales pitch and brainstorming session, a presentation Friday to the Tampa Bay Times, led by team executives Melanie Lenz and Bill Walsh, reveals some familiar ideas — a stadium that might have removable walls, maybe an aquarium or water slide, more local food and a high-tech roof.

But some surprises emerged.

“Seating that works for the traditional baseball consumer might not work for the family of four or the millennial,” Lenz said. “So how do we design seating spaces, gathering spaces and social spaces that work for all of those different fans in a way that is cohesive and makes sense?”

“It’s got to cover the fan on a budget to the fan where this is their premium experience,” she said. “We cannot price out the next generation of fans. We can’t.”

Some of the slides accompanying the presentation pictured European soccer stadiums. Team officials also readily admit they seek to tap into Major League Soccer’s success in cultivating younger fans.

The team will debut a website for fans to offer their own ideas in the coming weeks.

We would prefer grass, but, for now, whatever.  The ticket idea is interesting, but, if we have good seats, we are not moving.  And, as for upper decks, unless the stadium is going seat only 20,000 people (Which is ridiculous) it probably needs a second tier to have decent views (like all the bigger MLS stadiums.)

We applaud the Rays for thinking outside the box, but, while doing that, they need to stay focused on their primary product – which is baseball.  They do not want to tinker so much that they ruin the experience for the hardcore fans who will always form the core of their fan base.

Coming Out Watch

It seems the tourist promotion folks have been busy.  There have been a flurry of articles/reports about things to do in Tampa (and sometimes Tampa Bay).  First, there was one from CNN.  Another was from San Diego.  Yet another was from the Toronto Star.   The last article gives us a hint of why there may be this flurry – and why they seem to be so similar in what they cover (Unless, there just isn’t that much to say):

Jennifer Bain’s trip was sponsored by Visit Tampa Bay, which didn’t review or approve this story.

The other articles aren’t so direct, but we suspect there is something similar going on with them.  And don’t get us wrong.  We think it is fine for the local tourist promotion agencies to promote tourism (and work with the Pinellas agency to do it, too).  We have no problem with that (though they reports are all a bit lame and seem to promote certain local champions, which is a little questionable), even if the resulting articles are quite short and superficial.

However, you get a funny feedback loop when local media picks up on out-of-town media (like this – and, by the way, the San Diego article was not very good) sponsored by local government to say how hyped Tampa is getting in other places. Then again, that is SOP for the Tampa Bay area.

At least they identified the city properly, unlike a recent Monocle article about Holmes Beach.

On Anna Maria Island in southwest Florida, ice-cream parlour Two Scoops is so named because even when you order just one scoop, you’re given two. It’s a place where the police consider it a part of their job to make crying children happy; offering them on their modified golf carts is a popular trick. Along its sparkling beaches people go out of their way to say hello. It’s the kind of All-American vision that many might have thought extinct, yet it sits just a stone’s throw from the bustling port city of Tampa Bay.

Then again, when it is Visit Tampa Bay and Port Tampa Bay (even if they aren’t regional organizations), you can’t really complain when they call the city of Tampa Bay – but someone might want to tell them for next time.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 10, 2016 9:58 AM

    Great post as always.

    Transportation….it almost makes me wince when I hear the word used in reference to Tampa. The inability of Tampa and Austin to come to an agreement with Uber & Lyft demonstrates the closed minded thinking and lack of support for anything innovative. I could protest more, but what would be the point.

    USF Medical School moving to downtown. While I hate the constant comparisons with our community and Silicon Valley, etc. I find interesting how is our leaders want to model cities like Denver we keep taking the exact opposite approach. Denver is a great example of a tech city which utilizes light rail and urban density. They have a great University with a Medical School but it isn’t in the downtown core and never will be. Much like USF’s main campus it is located outside the core, the airport is the opposite direction and yet they are thriving in these areas. The University has seen the build out of Anschutz Medical Center, the UC Cancer Center, UC Hospital, UC Science Center and much more including more than 200k on campus everyday, 50k jobs associated with the medical facilities, apartment buildings, restaurants, etc. all publicly accessible but located on the University Campus. Rather than move the center to downtown they chose instead to build around it. What a novel concept, Take an underserved area and make it better versus pull up stakes and move downtown.

    Last but not least is the lack of understand that a region is just that, a region. Tampa is not Bradenton, it is not St. Pete, it is not even on the same side of the Skyway Bridge. Anna Maria Island, the majority of Longboat Key, downtown Bradenton and it’s Riverwalk, the Port on Manatee, most of Lakewood Ranch, the Sarasota Airport and the majority of technology, design and other “STEM” related companies are in Manatee County even though they may have a Sarasota address. The Realize Bradenton team, the Manatee Area EDC, the Bradenton City Council, Mayor and other civic leaders have done a true amazing job of changing what people viewed as being the stepchild of St. Pete and Sarasota into a progressive downtown where multiple generations happily live together and one of the fastest growing millennial populations in the county. Tampa has great attributes and I want to see it grow and thrive even more, but it will never have the beaches of Anna Maria Island or the community feel of Bradenton, but please stop taking credit for things you had nothing to do with and that are 50 miles south.

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