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Rays Were Driving Force Behind Ybor City Ballpark Site

Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays, not Hillsborough County, selected Ybor City as the preferred location for a new ballpark, according to a county official. 

It was recently revealed that the push for a new Rays ballpark in Hillsborough County is centered around a site in Tampa’s Channel District-Ybor City area. As part of that effort, the ballpark would be constructed on land surrounded by 15th Street and Channelside Drive to the east and west, along with Fourth Avenue and Adamo Drive to the north and south.

While it was previously presented as though the county and the Rays had collaborated to select that location as a preferred site, county administrator Mike Merrill said on Wednesday that that was not the case. Rather, according to Merrill, the Rays were the side that selected the site. More from The Tampa Bay Times:

In fact, the announced location “may not have been our choice given all other considerations,” Merrill told county commissioners at a Wednesday board meeting.

That characterization of behind-the-scenes conversations about the site seems to differ considerably from Commissioner Ken Hagan’s enthusiastic unveiling last week of the 14 acres on the corner of Channelside Drive and Fourth Avenue.

Hagan described the selection as a collaborative decision, and said the “Ybor site became both the team’s and our preferred site” after “discussing the benefits and challenges” of every option.

Thus far, the Rays have publicly claimed that they were waiting for Hillsborough County to present a proposal that could be considered alongside ballpark plans in Pinellas County. Through a statement that was issued last week, Rays president Brian Auld said, “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. 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.”

In discussing the situation with commissioners, Merrill emphasized that the Rays made this choice after being presented several sites:

“This was the Rays’ choice. It was the only choice. We showed them a number of sites. This was not Ken Hagan’s choice. This wasn’t this board’s choice. It wasn’t my choice. At this point we are still at the mercy of the Rays with respect to selection because they’re the ones that have to play there.

“It was not correct the way the media has represented that this was a county or even county board choice,’’ he said. “It was the Rays’ choice of land after showing them a number of parcels. The next part of this will be to see if we can make this work from a financial point of view.”

If any effort for a new ballpark is to move forward, the Rays and Hillsborough County will need to work out a funding plan for the site. The ballpark would replace Tropicana Field as the home of the Rays.

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