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Mayor's Presser: Airport, Ballpark, Electric Vehicles

City of Pensacola

Airport and ballpark construction, along with making the city more electric vehicle-friendly. Those are among the topics in Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson’s weekly news conference at City Hall on Monday.

Airport traffic is on the verge of outgrowing the present facility, says the Mayor, and even more so when Spirit Airlines begins operations next month.

“What we’re going to have to create is another avenue, another terminal,” Robinson said. “So I think we’re very much right there looking at that, and it’s in our plan already. We’ve just got to figure out how to execute it. And we didn’t think we’d be executing this fast, coming out of COVID.”

Work is underway to locate the real estate needed for such an expansion. A second terminal has been in the long-term plan, as the airport will be offering flights to 30 cities when Spirit comes aboard – the most destinations ever served by Pensacola International.

“The second week [of May] we’re up from the same week of 2019; at some point, it’s very incumbent among us to figure out what’s going to happen with growth there,” said the mayor. “We’ve already taken helicopters and everything from there to over on the east side. So now, we have the ability to move in and do improvements to the apron.”

Another issue getting top priority is securing another deal to keep the Blue Wahoos in Pensacola for another decade. This as improvements are being schedule for Blue Wahoos Stadium as part of any new lease.

“If that’s the case, all of the improvements are going to be on us, the city; we have a plan to finance that,” said Robinson. “Our plan is to bring it to the July [City] Council meeting. We’ve decided to go forward, with the only change in the lease is how do we fund the improvements that we’re required to make per the terms of the lease.”

Amy Lovoy, the city’s Financial Director, is checking on any additional funding that could be secured.

“There’s some money that’s coming in that we’ll reapply for money that was lost and the Maritime Park didn’t make,” said the mayor. “It’ll be money, and is applicable there that we can collect and be able to pay for those improvements. So there are other things that she’s going to have to figure out how to do it [when] she’s got it; but she’ll have a plan and we’re bringing that forward in July.”

The improvements – including artificial turf and better lighting -- are mandated by both the Wahoos’ parent club, the Florida Marlins – along with Major League Baseball. Another change is moving the bullpens out of the field of play.

“Stadiums started doing that years ago, but they’ve always traditionally been right there, where they are at Blue Wahoos Stadium – down the baselines,” Robinson said. “Major League Baseball wants those out. They obviously want the lights a certain way, putting it up to a [major league] level. For us to be able to work with the Marlins we definitely have to go with the same artificial turf that the Marlins have and they use.”

Florida ranks among the top five states in electric vehicle infrastructure and ownership. And with the cars and trucks gaining in popularity, the city of Pensacola is plugging in. Currently, the city has three public EV charging stations within the city limits. Robinson is promising that number will increase.

“The mayoral policy will help the city provide EV charging stations to the community effectively and equitably, by requiring all new development and redevelopment of city-owned properties to install EV charging infrastructure,” Robinson said. “This helps the city of Pensacola and its efforts to be a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions within the city.”

By enacting this plan, the mayor contends they’re setting an example for EV development throughout the city and will dramatically reduce cost and waste, en route to building a sustainable Pensacola.

“Cost of the installation of these EV charging stations that will reduce by more than half when the infrastructure’s already in place,” said the mayor. “We’re already working that in trying to prepare us to be as environmentally friendly as we can.”

And in his weekly COVID-19 report, Mayor Grover Robinson said positivity rates fluctuated from about three to six percent over the past week or so, with hospitalizations right around 30. He added that the best way to keep down those numbers is to get those shots.

“We’re going to continue to try to push, with all of our hospital partners; I think that’s what kept our numbers down as much as anything,” Robinson said. “And we need to continue to encourage everybody to get vaccinated.”