During his return to Tropicana Field to manage against his former club, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon said that the Tampa Bay Rays need a new ballpark.
The Cubs are currently visiting the Rays for a two-game series, which began on Tuesday night. Maddon, who led the Rays from 2006-2014 and is returning to Tropicana Field for the first time as a visiting manager, weighed in on the condition of the ballpark and the Rays’ ongoing search for their preferred site.
He was clear in his belief that Tropicana Field is an inadequate facility, and that its location in St. Petersburg hurts the team. Furthermore, Maddon argued that a move to downtown Tampa would solve multiple problems for the team, as it would not only lead to a new ballpark but also place it closer to a larger population base. More from WTSP:
“You need a better facility,” Maddon said, without being pressed on the issue. “You need a facility that’s readily available to the general population when they get off of work. They need a place that’s more baseball-oriented. You don’t need an erector set. You don’t need stuff hanging from the ceiling.
“Listen, it was a great place and it’s a great place to start, but for this organization to really get to where they want to on an annual basis, you need a better building in a better spot.”
The Rays have been looking for years to replace Tropicana Field, and they are continuing their search for a site that would be used for a new ballpark. That effort is focused on the Tampa Bay region, including Hillsborough County, where Tampa is located.
A potential funding source for a new ballpark could be taking shape in Hillsborough County. Despite the recent effects of Hurricane Irma, officials report that Hillsborough County remains on pace to exceed the $600 million threshold in hotel tax revenue for this year. Under Florida law, a county that surpasses that figure is given the ability to raise its tourism development tax to six cents on the dollar.
Nothing with the Rays has been finalized, but it is believed that if Hillsborough reaches its goal this year–after falling just short last year–the revenue could be in play for a new ballpark. More from The Tampa Bay Times:
Some local officials have eyed the sixth cent as one potential way to pay for a Tampa Bay Rays ballpark in Tampa. Those who want to use the room tax for a stadium are quick to point out it is primarily paid by tourists, unlike property or sales taxes. But the tax is off the table if the county doesn’t first pass the $600 million mark.
Last year, Hillsborough just narrowly missed the goal; hotels in the county brought in more than $597 million.
Through August, room tax collections are up 2.7 percent over last year, which would put Hillsborough on pace to surpass its goal.
But the margin for error remains slim and a major hurricane like Irma could have easily pushed the county from on track to just short of $600 million again.
The Rays have previously indicated that they would like to reveal their preferred site by the end of this year.
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