ST. PETERSBURG - Twenty-two year-old Aaron Howard was giving away stress relievers along First Street South late Wednesday afternoon. Across the street, the news conference announcing the Tampa Bay Rays' plans for a new downtown stadium had broken up an hour or so before. "I haven't looked into it too much," he said, shrugging when asked if a new stadium would draw him to more games. "I've been in the past, but not that much." He plans to learn more about the stadium to form an opinion, but right now, it's a bit far off in the future. As for attendance, parking would be the main issue, he said. "It was a pain over there (at Tropicana Field)," I could understand it being more of a pain over here." ST PETERSBURG - A group of homeless people sat on the sidewalk across the street from Progress Energy Park, the site where the Tampa Bay Rays brass hopes one day to build their new state-of-the-art stadium. The park would be one of a kind with a retractable "sail" for a roof. It would overlook the bay with all the expensive sailboats bobbing in the marina, The site currently is blocked from Robin and Daniel Dilley, though. They camped out on the sidewalk to protest the treatment the homeless is getting from the city of St. Petersburg. They weren't concerned with the announcement of plans for a new stadium. "If they want to build something," said Robin, 29, "they should build something that will help the whole community. We are the community too and we are being overlooked." If the homeless are offered jobs to help build the facility, fine, her 41-year-old husband said. "The reason we are homeless is because we have no jobs," he said. "This," his wife added, nodding toward the stadium, "is just another way for the rich to spend their money."
ST. PETERSBURG - Rachel Kardos is a big sports fan. She used to work for a minor league baseball team in Harrisburg, Pa., before moving to Clearwater. Last year, the 28-year-old went to about Tampa Bay Rays games at Tropicana Field. She likes the idea of a new stadium, and would not hesitate to travel to games here if the stadium is built. "I think it's great," she said "I love sports and anything to make it bigger and better, I'm all for." Parking for her would also be a concern, she said. She's trusting, though. She hopes the Rays' front office knows how to solve the parking problems in downtown St. Petersburg. "I feel that if they are going to do it," she said, "They know parking is an issue and they will make it work." ST PETERSBURG - The day is done for James Hughes, a concrete worker who is helping build the Signature St. Pete condominiums on First Street South in downtown, just across the street from Progress Energy Park. The 41-year-old Plant City man is a baseball fan, but doesn't necessarily agree with the grandiose plans to erect a new facility for the Tampa Bay Rays baseball club. "I don't think it's a good idea," he said, as he headed for his car after a day working in concrete on the skyscraper. "They should spend money on a baseball team that can win first and then get a nice new stadium." Driving from Plant City to a game is just too far, and to traverse downtown St. Petersburg as an added bonus is way too much to ask, he said. Plus, he said, "I'm not the type that goes into crowds."