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Tampa Mayor Wants Rays Ybor City Site Reconsidered for Federal Help

Tampa Bay Rays

While it was initially rejected, Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn is asking that land in Ybor City that includes a proposed Tampa Bay Rays ballpark site be reconsidered for federal help. It was recently learned that the area in Ybor City did not make the cut to be considered as an economic opportunity zone. Under economic opportunity zone regulations, the area surrounding the proposed ballpark would have been eligible for tax breaks to developers who made investments there. That designation–which the federal government can apply to low-income areas–was considered by local officials for Ybor City, but it was not included in the state’s list of sites that was submitted to the federal government.

Hillsborough County officials indicated at the time that that would not be a major setback in the plan to solicit private investment, but Buckhorn is asking Florida governor Rick Scott to reconsider the site. Specifically, he is proposing that a smaller site that did make the list be swapped out for the larger Ybor City location. It was also stressed that new ballpark discussions were not the primary motivator for considering the Ybor City area. More from The Tampa Bay Times:

Buckhorn proposes swapping the parcel for another property around Armenia and Hillsborough Avenues already approved by Scott as an economic opportunity zone.

The 415-acre parcel in Ybor City stretches northeast from the intersection of Adamo and Channelside Drives, to East 4th Avenue and East 15th Street. It takes in land the Rays have identified as their preferred site for a new stadium to replace Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

“That’s not the primary reason we want it included,” said Christina Barker, Buckhorn’s special assistant. “The fact that the Rays are looking at it shows how prime it is for economic development.”….

The smaller parcel around Armenia and Hillsborough Avenues did make the state’s list of proposals. But city and county officials agree the Ybor City site has more economic potential and could generate as many as 9,633 jobs compared to 341 from the other site, according to estimates.

Development figures to be a key factor in the process regardless of whether the designation is granted, especially if local government wants to see a return on its investment. The Rays announced in February that they would pursue the Ybor City site for a new ballpark. The Rays and Hillsborough County are expected to be the heaviest contributors to the new ballpark if the plan moves forward, though plenty of questions remain on the cost and funding model for the proposed facility.

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