I have an idea. I just need a little help from a Chamber of Commerce and I can solve all of Polk County’s problems.
For months we’ve debated bringing in a rail yard for a few dozen jobs. The mess with trucks, roads, traffic, noise…well, let’s face it, it just isn’t fun. In the parlance of today’s advertising and media moguls, the rail yard debate isn’t “sexy.”
Well, I have a sexy idea.
Imagine an idea that is already loved by Governor Crist, would bring in 2,500 permanent jobs, 14,000 temporary construction-related jobs, and would generate more than $800 million in new property and sales tax revenue over the next 35 years! (*)
And the best part: no mile long trains, noisy crossings, and traffic is guaranteed to be an issue only 81 times a year.
You guessed it. Let’s bring the Tampa Bay Rays to Lakeland!
The Major League Baseball team wants to move from their old dome to a state of the art ballpark. They’d really like something on the water. They have this dream of home runs flying over the fence and making a splash.
I say we do St. Pete one better and lure the team here. A first for baseball. We build a stadium in the middle of a lake. Every home run or hard foul ball makes a splash. Maybe Lake Parker or, even better, Lake Hollingsworth. I am sure the Lakeland Yacht Club would give up their land for player parking. We’re talking 2,500 jobs and splash down home runs!
Besides, who ever heard of a yacht club on a lake? As a deal sweetener, the yacht club could trade their land for that useless property the team has on the bay in St. Petersburg. Then the yachters would have a dock to be proud of.
We’d give the team the lake. It’s a drain anyway. We have to spend all that cash clearing the trees to give FSC a good view of the water.
I’m not forgetting the Hollingsworth walkers. We’d include a clause that the team keep the walking path if they have to widen the lake. It’d be a better walk, with maybe a small store to sell Rays water bottles and tank tops.
We could hire a firm to design a Frank Lloyd Wright inspired stadium to match the Florida Southern Campus. Batters would love the low walls, and pitchers would love the batter-confusing reflections off the glass bricks and waterfalls.
Area residents would make a pretty penny renting out their driveways for close-in parking, but the city’s new 10 story parking garage at Crystal Lake and Bartow Road would still make a mint.
To make sure our friends in East Polk get a piece of the cash, we’re route all game traffic trough Winter Haven to give their businesses a chance to sell gas and sandwiches.
Imagine those cool summer evenings (Shh, I’m making money for the city here.) as we sit on our porches and hear the crack of the bat, the bloop of the home run splash, the roar of the crowd, and the flick flick as the Lakeland Commissioners count the dollars.
Picture homeowners popping open mailboxes to find their tax rebate checks as they kiss the apple cheeks of their teenage sons and daughters. The little darlings resplendent in their team jerseys as they’re off to sell pennants, programs, and souvenir baseballs.
144 jobs and noisy trains or 2,500 jobs and baseball. It’s a shutout. You’d have to be un-American not to vote for the national pastime.