The Tampa Bay Rays have a three-year window to identify a potential new ballpark site in the region, but Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn says he already has the perfect location: a downtown site currently used for an aging low-income housing project.
Last week the St. Petersburg City Council voted to allow the Rays to search in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties for a new ballpark site, the first breakthrough in years of negotiations between the two sides. Those two counties comprise most of the greater Tampa Bay area — or at least the areas where a new ballpark would be feasible. That includes downtown Tampa, where local officials have been anticipating a new Rays ballpark for years.
A few downtown locations have been floated the past few years, and one that seems to have a lot of support is the Tampa Park Apartments site, home to an aging low-income housing project. That site has some selling points. First, it’s within eight to 10 blocks of an existing set of parking garages: the Fernando Noriega Jr. and Centro Ybor garages. Second, it’s probably available: the nonprofit that owns and operates the apartments has indicated they’re willing to sell. From the Tampa Tribune:
A downtown ballpark and the 80 home games it would bring could transform the profitability of those parking garages, especially the Fernando Noriega Jr. and Centro Ybor garages, both money losers for the city. Using existing parking would also mean less parking construction, potentially lowering the cost of a new ballpark, said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who on Friday again named the location is his No. 1 choice for a ballpark.
“If you can use the Ybor garages, if you can use the downtown garages to supplement parking needs and not have to construct parking, those prices come down,” Buckhorn said. “Those spaces cost $15,000 to $20,000 per space to construct. That takes that amount out of the cost of the building.”
The metrics aren’t good: no matter what, a new ballpark displacing low-income housing will inevitably receive lots of criticism, so it will take a more comprehensive plan, including the replacement of the housing units, to work.
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