We end 2017 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Ballpark Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #8: The Tampa Bay Rays continue to pursue a new ballpark.
Though some progress has been made, the Tampa Bay Rays’ pursuit of a new ballpark still faces uncertainty heading into 2018. A site in Tampa has been identified as a contender, but the Rays and local officials still have to determine the financial viability of a new ballpark as the team plots its long-term plans.
Back in January 2016, the Rays and the City of St. Petersburg reached an agreement that gave the team three years to canvass the Tampa Bay region for the site of a new ballpark to replace Tropicana Field. That sparked plenty of buzz over potential locations in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, but 2016 came and went without a clear-cut contender emerging as a likely landing spot for the Rays.
Now that 2017 is approaching its conclusion, one site in particular is drawing considerable attention. In October, it was revealed that Tampa’s Ybor City area—specifically a 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—had emerged as an option in Hillsborough County. The Rays, for their part, indicated that were not ruling out other options, including one in St. Petersburg that called for a new ballpark and related development at the Tropicana Field site.
In the period since the announcement about the Ybor City site was made, concerns have come up about how the ballpark would be funded. Rays owner Stuart Sternberg has said that, based on current revenue projections, the team’s contribution to a new ballpark would likely be around $150 million. Sternberg has cautioned that that number could increase or decrease over time, but the team will have to work with Hillsborough County officials will have to sort out some uncertainties.
Along with figuring out a firm cost estimate, the sides will have to come up with a way to create a financial model for the plan. The county has expressed some concerns that $150 million from the team will not be enough, and negotiations between the two sides are likely going to have to take place in order for there to be more clarity surrounding the funding plan for a new ballpark.
In essence, 2017 was a year that provided some possibilities for the Rays as they look to get on the road to a new ballpark. Yet, the pursuit is still left with many questions that must be addressed, making it likely that the team’s search will once again be a story in 2018.
Previously in our Top Ten Stories of 2017 List: