Though there apparently has been plenty of negotiations going on over the parameters of a potential funding plan for a new Ybor City ballpark, the Rays have been pretty quiet since team officials settled on the area last summer. And with the team looking at an 11-month window to negotiate a Hillsborough County ballpark coming to an end, the time is coming to make a proposal, even if the funding side of it isn’t pinned down.
For that to happen, John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times says business support is essential before anyone will commit to a new Ybor City ballpark. Most MLB teams can count on support on the business community when it comes to season tickets and sponsorships, but both have been in short supply at the Trop, he writes:
If a stadium is to be built in Ybor City, it is going to require a much greater commitment from the business community than what we’ve previously seen.
That means major corporations buying sponsorships and suites. That means smaller businesses buying season tickets. That means providing the Rays with a more dependable revenue stream.
Rays fans have taken a beating nationally for not supporting a franchise that has a better record than 23 other teams in the last decade but has, at the same time, had the lowest attendance in the big leagues.
The truth is, that disparity has had more to do with the business community than everyday fans.
A move to Tampa would also represent a shift into Hillsborough County for the Rays, who have played at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg since their inaugural season in 1998. In St. Petersburg, part of Pinellas County, there has been some discussion about the possibility of constructing a new ballpark near Tropicana Field, which would be torn down to make way for new development. A previously-approved 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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