The Tampa Bay Rays have announced their preferred site for a new ballpark, revealing that they will pursue a site in Tampa’s Ybor City.
As was expected, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg announced on Friday that the Rays will pursue a new Ybor City ballpark to replace Tropicana Field. The possibility of this decision has been rumored since last August, but Friday marked the first time that the Rays have publicly confirmed that it is their preferred site.
If the Rays and local officials can successfully complete the effort, the new ballpark would be constructed at a 14-acre site north of Ybor Channel and open by either the 2022 or 2023 season. However, considerable work will have to take place in order to make the facility a reality, with negotiations over the ballpark’s financial model being one of the major factors in whether the plan will move forward. More from The Tampa Bay Times:
“Ybor City is authentically Tampa Bay,” Sternberg said. “This is where we want to be playing.”
At the same time, businessman Chuck Sykes announced the formation of the Tampa Bay Rays 2020 organization and campaign, to help take on the task of gaining support for the project from the public and business community.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn also took the podium, thanking St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman for having “the courage to do the right thing to make sure Rays stay in our region.
“We are Tampa,” Buckhorn said. “And baseball is a part of us.”
Significant hurdles remain. The two sides are not close to an agreement for how to pay for a new ballpark, likely to cost more than $700 million. Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan said Thursday he hopes that can be finalized by the end of the year.
A new Ybor City ballpark would replace Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg as the team’s home. The Rays have been looking for years to replace Tropicana Field, their home since 1998. 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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