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Hillsborough, Pinellas Continue Rays Ballpark Pitches

Tampa Bay Rays

Hillsborough and Pinellas counties are continuing to pitch the Tampa Bay Rays on ballpark sites, but the parties have still not reached a consensus. 

Early last year, St. Petersburg officials granted the Rays permission to look throughout the region for a replacement for Tropicana Field, effectively allowing Hillsborough County and Tampa to enter the mix. Both counties have discussed various site options over the past year, but no clear favorite has emerged.

However, Hillsborough County officials are saying that they working with the Rays to trim the list of potential sites, an effort that is distinct from any possibilities in Pinellas County.  As that process occurs, efforts are also taking place in St. Petersburg/Pinellas County. While some, including St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman, are hopeful that a consensus will be reached and the efforts can start to come to fruition, there are still fears of a bidding war. More from 10 News:

“When we start getting into detailed conversations about financing,” Kriseman said, “what we set ourselves up for is a bidding war, and then the taxpayers are the losers when that happens.”

St. Petersburg has been meeting with the Rays privately as well and seems to hold a distinct advantage over Hillsborough County when it comes to available funding streams for a new stadium, since Hillsborough is already paying for two other stadiums and a convention center.

Kriseman has also been bullish on the possibility of a new stadium next to the existing stadium, so redevelopment at the Tropicana Field site could help fund the project.

When asked why he hasn’t sat down at the table with the Rays and Tampa/Hillsborough officlals, Kriseman said he expected each side to pitch its best site and let the Rays choose their favorite. Kriseman said he hoped both counties would then rally around the chosen site and hope the financing fell into place.

“We’re not getting into a bidding war because that doesn’t do any of us any good,” Kriseman said.

Discussions about the Rays ballpark are all but certain to be an issue in 2017. Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said in December that he hopes for an “end game” in the process, and the Rays and MLB have made it known for years that they do not view Tropicana Field as a viable facility. That, combined with the team’s ability to explore the whole region, has laid the ground work for discussions, but much still needs to be resolved about whether the parties involved can come to a consensus on the site and funding.

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