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More land assembled for new Rays ballpark?

Tampa Bay RaysThe sale of a half-dozen contiguous parcels in downtown Tampa could foreshadow yet another proposal for a Tampa Bay Rays ballpark site, this time from Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.

The land, close to the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Channelside Drive, was purchased for $9.5 million by a corporation that involves Vinik and Ray Baker, longtime chairman of the Denver Metropolitan Major League Baseball Stadium District who put together the original deal for Coors Field. From

Officials with the Lighting confirmed the deal and noted that Vinik is involved in the property as a part owner, but they said there are no plans for the land. For years, the Lightning and Forum operators have used land north of the Forum for employee parking and to store the scores of trucks that often come in for concerts and shows.

“As one of the economic hubs of the Channelside District, we remain interested in what is happening in the neighborhood,” the Lightning said in a statement. “There are no short- or long-term plans for the property at this point, other than creating increased parking options for Lightning hockey games, Storm football games and other Times Forum events.”

Of course, the Lightning PR operations must say there is no firm plan for a ballpark pitch: the Rays are contractually prohibited from discussing new-ballpark sites, although the team has asked St. Petersburg for a lease modification that would allow for talks once the future of Tropicana Field is settled. Still, there are two other ballpark proposals floating around — one in St. Petersburg’s Carillon Business Park and another in the same Channelside area near the arena — and at some point we’d expect something tangible from Vinik and crew.

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