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Three Rays ballpark sites recommended by committee

A local citizens group has recommended two Tampa and one St. Pete sites for a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark, but the process is already breaking down.

A local citizens committee recommended three potential new-ballpark sites for a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark, but St. Pete officials say they'll make their own ballpark pitch after being disappointed with the results.

A Baseball Community (ABC), an 11-member group led by Progress Energy CEO Jeff Lyash, says the Tampa Bay Rays have financially outgrown Tropicana Field, and local political members should start planning for a new centrally located ballpark in St. Petersburg or Tampa, ideally in downtown Tampa, west Tampa or the Pinellas Gateway. Any new ballpark should have a retractable roof, The group also looked at renovations to Tropicana Field, but decided against that route because of excessive costs. The conclusions come after 18 months of study after an initial plan for a new Rays ballpark on the Al Lang Field site fell through.

The study did not meet with approval from St. Pete reps, who blasted the possibility of the team moving to Tampa. City officials have pushed a new downtown site (and indeed, we hear the city may bring back the idea of a new ballpark on the Al Lang Field site). Instead of participating in the process, St. Pete officials have severed ties with the coalition and will directly pitch the Rays on a new-ballpark site, setting up a bidding war between Tampa/Hillsborough County and St. Pete/Pinellas County — or a nasty lawsuit, as St. Pete officials keep repeating that the Rays have a contractual obligation to play at the Trop through 2026, and the city expects the team to fulfill that obligation.

The report came with a slew of disclaimers. First, the group merely looked at the financial needs of the team and potential sites; funding was not addressed, and indeed members warned that the bad economy could throw a big monkey wrench in the proceedings. Second, the team's been pretty quiet about the report and the politics — probably a smart move — but any new ballpark will require some significant spending by Rays ownership.

RELATED STORIES: New Rays ballpark discussion shifts to Tampa; Group: Any new Rays ballpark needs retractable roof; Group: Renovating Trop isn't option in keeping Rays; Rays task force may have prelim recommendations by June — but no site; Rays propose Carillon Town Center site for ballpark

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