No yellow sails – ever

The Rays dispute opponents' view of their proposed new ballpark.

The Tampa Bay Rays say an altered rendering of their proposed waterfront ballpark being distributed by an opposition group is "patently misleading."

The Rays point out that their sail-like retractable fabric roof won't be yellow, as pictured in a graphic done by St. Pete Preserve our Wallets and Waterfront (POWW), and it won't blot out the St. Petersburg skyline, either.

We ran a picture of the POWW rendering in this column last week after the civic activist group began distributing copies of it to illustrate the size of the sail roof, which would stretch from 13 stories tall at the stadium stands to an estimated 30 stories tall, where it would attach to a giant "mast" in the outfield.

The Rays' senior vice president heading up the ballpark project, Michael Kalt, wrote within days to me: "The rendering of the roof you published is patently misleading. We are talking about a transparent fabric that will be deployed, at most, for a few hours a day less than 90 days a year."

But the roof isn't transparent. It will have to be opaque to some degree, in order to keep out the heating rays of the sun and lower temperatures in the planned open-air stadium, I wrote back to Kalt. I even remember the team saying so at one of the many public meetings already held on this matter.

He answered:

"We are working with HOK to include images of the roof opening and closing in the virtual tour. It should take a few weeks. But your recollection is correct. We are trying to make it as transparent as possible while still ensuring that it reflects or diffuses heat rather than absorbs it (since most of our games will be in the evening, shade is somewhat less of an issue than reflectivity). This should result in a largely transparent fabric, and certainly not anything close to that lemon-yellow cartoon that you published.

"In any event, the salient fact isn't really the roof material," Kalt continued. "It's that the roof itself will only be deployed a small fraction of the time: not at all for half the year (i.e., during the offseason), only 81-90 days during the other half of the year (i.e., during the baseball season), and even on those days, only for a few hours. That's not to dismiss the fact that there will be some impact to waterfront views from a couple of adjoining properties during those hours. But we should be honest about the extent and duration of that impact."

A fair point and one that did not fit into our cutlines in the newspaper. We should have done a better job describing it in the story, however.

Soon afterward, POWW members re-did their graphic and made the sail white instead of yellow. But they continue to feel that the Rays' official ballpark renderings downplay the size and scope of the sail roof and showed it as being transparent (it is pictured in the open position so the sail fabric is not visible in any rendering.) The Rays insist they have done no such thing, that they've always been open about how long the sail would be closed and open and its size, as demonstrated by the fact that they included the outlines of it in their renderings.

Christine Jennings update: You remember Jennings, the Democrat who was jobbed out of a job in the hallowed halls of Congress thanks to a poorly designed ballot in Sarasota County in the 2006 elections, resulting in 18,000 "undervotes," where voters cast ballots for neither candidate. She fought for (and won) a Government Accounting Office investigation into the election that sent Republican fundraiser Vern Buchanan to Washington. But now that probe is over, and even in its conclusion she once again got treated shabbily.

Copies of the GAO probe were leaked by her opponents before a Congressional Task Force reviewed it and voted to terminate its examination. She cried foul. "Both sides were asked not to leak, but in the Buchanan campaign's typical low ethical standards, they went right ahead and did so," Sam Hirsch, her attorney, told the Miami Herald.

Buchanan's lawyer, Hayden Dempsey, told the Herald that the report should have gone directly to the public: "Voters have the right to know. We understand why they would want to keep it private, but for the last year and a half she's been saying the votes didn't count, and the voters had a right to know."

All this fight over leaking obscures the real sin of the GAO probe, which found no machine malfunction or rigging. Two scientific studies of the layout of the Sarasota County ballot, as reported in Creative Loafing last year, show that the culprit was human, not machine. The ballots placed the congressional vote on the same page as the governor's race, and one study proved when that layout is used, the undervote goes up significantly. The study also showed that statistically, if those votes had been cast, Jennings would have won.

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