Hillsborough County has announced its preferred location for a Tampa Bay Rays ballpark, with Tampa’s Channel District-Ybor City area emerging as its top choice.
It has been revealed that Hillsborough County will pitch the Rays land in the Channel District-Ybor City area, with the exact site surrounded by 15th Street and Channelside Drive to the east and west, along with Fourth Avenue and Adamo Drive to the north and south. Back in August, it was reported that the county was eyeing this area as its preferred site for a new ballpark, and officials are now offering offered some details on that pitch.
According to Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, there is an option agreement in place with land owners to secure roughly 14 acres for the project. This announcement on Tuesday marks a new turn in the Rays’ ongoing ballpark search, but questions remain, including the Rays’ consideration of possible contenders in Pinellas County. More from The Tampa Bay Times:
“We initially presented sites to (the Rays) and after discussing the benefits and challenges of each it became clear that the Ybor site became both the team’s and our preferred site,” Hagan told the Times on Tuesday.
The Rays must now weigh Hillsborough’s entry against other options in Pinellas County. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman wants to build a new ballpark on a redeveloped Tropicana Field site, though other options may be in play.
In a statement, the Rays were noticeably noncommittal, though Major League Baseball teams are reticent to make news during the World Series. There’s also a hotly contested St. Petersburg mayoral race, and a bold announcement now could sway it.
“This is another important step in the site selection process, and we are grateful for the time and attention that went into making it a possibility,” Tampa Bay Rays President Brian Auld said in the statement. “We look forward to getting to work evaluating this option, along with those in Pinellas County including the Tropicana Field site, as a potential future home for Rays Baseball in Tampa Bay for generations to come.”
Among the other key questions still facing the Rays’ search include ballpark funding. Hillsborough County will also have to negotiate with the Rays, which it has nine months to do under the parameters of its agreement, though it includes an option to extend that window by six months. Additionally, Tampa Electric Co., which owns property in the area, is not included in the agreement, but Hagan reportedly told the Times that “the company is cooperating with the county.”
The Rays have been looking for years to replace Tropicana Field with a new ballpark. A previously-agreement with the City of St. Petersburg allows the team to canvass the Tampa Bay region for a new ballpark until January 2019.
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