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Tampa Bay Rays: We want urban ballpark

Tampa Bay RaysThe Tampa Bay Rays were pretty direct in presenting a ballpark wish list to the city of St. Petersburg: an urban ballpark built on 20 acres close to mass transit, major roadways and a high population density, with the potential for a new adjoining entertainment and retail development.

The wish list is just an outline of the criteria the team plan on using to evaluate potential ballpark sites in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. In a way, it’s really the criteria set forth by virtually every MLB team since the construction of Oriole Park in Baltimore, which did indeed set an impressive baseline for what folks expect from a modern ballpark. That same blueprint has been successfully played out in every leading ballpark built since — Target Field, PNC Park, AT&T Park. From the Tampa Tribune:

The Rays envision an arrive early, stay late destination with scope for surrounding development of other entertainment for fans such as dining and shopping. The surrounding area should “represent what is best about Tampa Bay” and have enough parking within walking distance, according to the wish list.

There is no mention of how much a new stadium may cost or how much the Rays will contribute.

The document was transmitted to St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and city council members 39 days ahead of a deadline established in the recent agreement reached with St. Petersburg, emphasizing how eager the team is to escape the aging Tropicana Field, where it has struggled with the lowest attendances in major league baseball.

“This process document contains the vision and criteria which will guide our search,” said Rays Senior Vice President Melanie Lenz. “We look forward to taking a fresh look at all possibilities for our next generation ballpark.”

The document also sets forth the process the team will use to evaluate sites:

  • The first stage will examine existing business centers in the two Tampa Bay counties, which will surely include downtown Tampa and downtown St. Petersburg.
  • The second stage will apply six criteria to those sites passing muster, including available land, site readiness, and the potential of additional development.
  • The third stage will determine a final site (or multiple sites, as the case may be).

With the decision by the St. Petersburg City Council to allow the Rays to search for a new ballpark site, there’s been a flurry of action — or meetings, anyway — about potential ballparks. (In fact, this morning Tampa and Rays officials had their first meeting on the subject.) Nothing new has emerged since Tampa Mayor Rob Buckhorn pitched a few downtown sites, and the criteria would seem to eliminate only one potential ballpark site — a downtown ConAgra plant. Still in play: the Florida State Fairgrounds, the 85-acre Tropicana Field site, a Derby Lane site and the Tampa Greyhound Track.

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