Former Tampa Bay Rowdies owner Bill Edwards has never been shy when it comes to voicing his opinions, and on Monday he spoke out against a ballot question concerning the expansion of the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg.
Edwards’ company, Big 3 Entertainment, manages the Mahaffey Theater, part of the Duke Energy Center that’s adjacent to the museum. In a statement, he says a referendum on the Nov. 8 general election ballot, if approved by voters, would eliminate an access point to the theater and reduce parking for Rowdies matches, the Florida Orchestra, the Class Acts Youth Educational Performance Series and other events associated with Al Lang Field and the Duke Energy Center.
“The people should vote ‘no’ on what amounts to a land grab from the Dalí,” Edwards states in a news release. “The Dalí may need city land to expand but think about the impact of major construction to our operation and to the beautiful waterfront.”
If the referendum passes muster with voters, the city of St. Petersburg would also be allowed to amend its 99-year lease with the Dalí Museum, allowing the facility to begin work on an expansion project. Edwards says the proposal, if approved, would allow the city to renegotiate its contract with Big 3 Entertainment, which, the release states, would negatively affect the theater’s operations and programming.
"It is surprising that anyone would want to object to a project that will enrich arts education in our community and has the support of the City of St. Petersburg, the Tampa Bay Times, the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership and St. Pete Rising," Dalí Museum Executive Director Hank Hine says in a response, submitted via email, to Edwards' comments. "We are excited about the opportunities the museum expansion could bring to strengthen our area's already robust cultural offerings."
Hine goes on to state, "The Dalí continues to work closely with the city and our neighbors on the proposed expansion. Every possible impact on the area was considered and adjusted. The expansion will only lift the community and will have no foreseeable negative impact on the Mahaffey Theater. The Mahaffey Theater was operative when we built the Dalí Museum’s current structure in 2011 and was not interrupted in any way."
Brian Hartz holds a master’s degree in journalism from Indiana University and has been a St. Petersburg resident since 2013. He has also worked for newspapers and magazines in Indiana, Canada and New Zealand.