Buckhorn, Sternberg talk about ‘everything but the stadium’ during NYC social call, mayor says

June 24, 2013

Jamal Thalji | Tampa Bay Times
Tampa Bay Rays owners Stu Sternberg, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan were all hanging out together at Yankee Stadium during last week’s Yankees-Rays series.
So, Mr. Mayor, what did you guys talk about? Maybe a new baseball stadium? Say, in downtown Tampa?
“Um …,” said Buckhorn, as Tampa’s unflappable mayor appeared briefly flummoxed by that obvious question during Monday’s news conference at the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp.
Sitting next to the mayor, EDC CEO Rick Homans couldn’t believe what wasn’t happening.
“C’mon,” Homans said. “You had to have prepared for that question.”
Buckhorn smiled. “I’ve heard it enough times,” the mayor said. He also issued what has become the standard denial in Tampa, as Buckhorn said that he did not Sternberg about any new stadium in Hillsborough County for the team.
“We had a wonderful social chat,” Buckhorn said. “We talked about everything but the stadium.”
Buckhorn and Homans were part of a local delegation that visited New York City last week to say thank you to the firms that employ bay area residents. But they also let those executives know that the Tampa-Hillsborough area would love to accommodate any future expansion or hiring they’re planning to do.
While the mayor was out of town, he missed the talk New Yorker writer George Packer gave at the Oxford Exchange on Friday night about his new book, The Unwinding. It’s a portrait of how the economy disintegrated, and several chapters deal with the housing bust in Tampa. One book reviewer said that it made Tampa sound like “hell on earth.”
Buckhorn was much more prepared for that question on Monday.
“I haven’t read the book,” he said. “But if Tampa is hell, I’m getting an asbestos suit. Because I’m staying. I’m going to skip purgatory and come right to hell.”
The mayor was more serious, however, about the economic turmoil that the area suffered through, which Packer’s described in his book.
“Everyone recognizes that we lived through a catastrophic recession,” Buckhorn said, “and Florida was hit particularly hard, and the building industry was hit particularly hard. There are many reasons for that, many outside of our control. “We’re rebounding. We’re back. We’re getting back. We’ve learned our lessons. We’re not growing an economy that is totally dependent on real estate. Out of this, we are (growing) stronger.”