The future of downtown St. Petersburg's Al Lang stadium is now a subject of consideration in both public and private circles. The acreage it occupies is critical as the city develops a comprehensive waterfront master plan, and the subject surfaced as the city council considered that plan Thursday morning.
"What would happen if we decided to do away with Al Lang and then bring Beach Drive in to end up at the Dali?" councilman Jim Kennedy queried, in the context of issues any plan should consider.
In recent years, a thriving sidewalk cafe scene has taken off on Beach Drive north of Central Avenue. A new Dali Museum, renovated Mahaffey Theater and modernized Albert Whitted airport are several blocks south of Central. Al Lang sits in between.
"Because the Dali is down at the end, there's now some greater pressure to find out how can we re-do some of that," councilman Karl Nurse pointed out.
Ross Preville represents a chamber of commerce waterfront task force, and agreed Al Lang is an unavoidable subject.
"There are two sides but yes, it is actually becoming a talking point within the overall waterfront plan itself," Preville told FOX 13 News.
Mayor Bill Foster is quite familiar with the conversation, and is quite resolute to keep Al Lang active with Rowdies soccer matches, international baseball and American football games.
"It's seeing more use, more people going through the turn style, and as long as it's being used, we're going to keep it in suitable fashion," Foster said, "If we don't use it we lose it."
That's a reference to a land use decision a different city council made several years ago: If Al Lang is demolished, its acreage automatically becomes waterfront parkland.
"It's almost a [downtown] Pier argument" Foster pointed out. "We've had a pier for a hundred years, do you want to not have a pier? It's been baseball facility for a hundred years -- are we going to take that out too?"
Last week, the city council made what is considered the "green light" decision to replace the existing downtown pier with a new one known as the Lens. The current pier will close at the end of May, with demolition slated to begin in August.
No similar decision is on the immediate horizon for Al Lang. In discussing potential wording of the new waterfront plan, councilman Jeff Danner said, "We're not voting to tear down Al Lang, we're developing a plan that recommends certain things happen in the future, which will be voted on in the future."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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