The Ybor City area that includes a proposed Tampa Bay Rays ballpark site has been added to the list for a federal tax break, potentially making it more viable for development.
Ongoing discussions for a new Rays ballpark are centered around Tampa’s Ybor City neighborhood, where the team has been pitched a 14-acre site north of Ybor Channel. Several key specifics about the proposal remain unresolved, but local officials believe that attracting private investment to the area surrounding the ballpark will be key to making the proposal work.
Earlier this year, local officials sought to have an Ybor City census tract considered for a federal economic opportunity zone designation. Under economic opportunity zone regulations, the area surrounding the proposed ballpark would be eligible for tax breaks to developers who made investments there. After being left off an initial list that the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity submitted to the federal government in April, the Ybor City area was later swapped in for a smaller site. Tampa officials, including mayor Bob Buckhorn, say that adding Ybor City to the list is not necessarily the result of ongoing ballpark discussions, as the site would be eyed for development regardless. More from the Tampa Bay Times:
Buckhorn and the city’s top economic development official insist that the economic opportunity zone designation isn’t necessarily tied to a Rays ballpark. The area that includes the proposed stadium site is in need of an economic boost anyway, they said.
“The renaissance of Ybor isn’t quite done yet. There is still a fair amount of work to be done,” said Bob McDonaugh, the city’s economic opportunity administrator.
The work likely got easier with the new designation, allowing developers and private investors within the zone to delay tax payments on profits from the sale of real estate and other investments if they roll that money into Ybor City.
“It means good things for Ybor City in general,” Buckhorn said. “That census tract links Ybor City to Channelside. It was important it wasn’t left out.”
The Rays announced Ybor City as their preferred site in February, though plenty of questions remain. No firm cost estimate for the ballpark has been released, and it remains to be seen whether the parties involved–including the Rays and Hillsborough County–can agree to a funding model. If eventually approved, the new Ybor City ballpark would replace Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg as the home of the Rays.
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