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No Land, No Ballpark: Rays Face New Obstacles

Tampa Bay RaysWith Hillsborough County facing problems in obtaining land parcels near downtown Tampa for a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark, officials are turning their sights to the West Shore area — and potentially delaying the project again.

Hillsborough County had been seeking options on land in the Channel District-Ybor City region — off of downtown, with some historical ties to baseball — but has been stymied by other investors, who had hit the area first. Downtown Tampa is an incredibly hot market right now, thanks to the strength of Amalie Arena and investments in the downtown arena area by Lightning owner Jeff Vinik. That’s certainly led to a bit of speculation in the surrounding area. That includes the Channel District and Ybor City, adjacent to downtown Tampa. Five years ago, land in this area — particularly Ybor City — could have been had for a song, but that’s not certainly true today.

That’s leading Hillsborough County to look at the West Shore area for a ballpark site. This is not necessarily a bad option, but one that could delay a new Rays ballpark project. From Tampa Bay Times:

But county officials are dealing with multiple landowners there, making negotiations especially complicated. One of the largest players is Darryl Shaw, the chief executive officer of BluePearl Veterinary Services, who with other investors has spent millions of dollars in recent years buying property throughout Ybor City….

The county wants landowners to approve an option agreement for their parcels that would be executed in the event the Rays decide to leave St. Petersburg.

Hagan acknowledged that Shaw is one of the individuals in negotiations with the county. Shaw, who Hagan called a shrewd businessman and “one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met,” did not respond to phone calls from the Times.

“It keeps dragging on and on,” Hagan said. “But I’m hopeful. The baseball season is over. I think we’re getting closer.”

If you had started acquiring land for a new Rays ballpark in the Channel District five years ago, the options would have been very cheap. Today, they’re expensive 0r impossible to acquire —  as Hillsborough County is discovering. It’s all in the timing when it comes to land acquisition.

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