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Is a business park the best place for a Rays ballpark?

Proposed Tampa Bay Rays ballpark

As the debate continues over a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark, real-estate experts say a business park with limited parking may not be the best location.

Developer Darryl LeClair has pitched the city and the Rays on a unique plan to nestle a ballpark in the middle of a commercial development, Carillon Business Park. The location is in northern St. Petersburg, and while to date the development has been a success (the vacancy rate for Class A space in the park is only 8 percent), it’s not clear whether it’s the best place for a ballpark. Besides the obvious parking issues — there just aren’t enough parking spots for accommodate both tenants and a large baseball crowd — it’s questionable whether the sorts of businesses looking to serve a baseball audience would draw enough business on off days. From the Tampa Bay Times:

But some brokers questioned whether restaurateurs or other retail leaders would take a chance far from the more established customer bases, and perhaps easier money, of Tampa and St. Petersburg’s urban centers.

“The stadium could be gravy for certain kinds of uses, like marquee restaurants that think central Pinellas would be a great area to expand,” said Tom McGeachy, a managing principal for Ciminelli Real Estate Services. But “I don’t know that the stadium by itself is going to be a driver for a huge amount of retail … with such limited demand.”

If you look at successful MLB ballparks of the last decade (financially speaking), you’re talking about urban ballparks: Target Field, PNC Field, Coors Field, Petco Park. With one downtown Tampa ballpark plan on the table and another sure to be unveiled in coming weeks, the contract couldn’t be more stark.

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