The Tampa Bay Rays appear ready to contribute more than $150 million to a new ballpark in Tampa’s Ybor City, but the exact financials remain unknown.
When they were released last week, the plans for a new Ybor City ballpark answered some key questions. The announcement showed that the Rays are seeking an intimate ballpark– 28,216 seats, with additional standing room to create an overall capacity of 30,842–with a fixed translucent roof, and envision the facility being available for a variety of non-baseball events. It also addressed uncertainties about the cost, outlining it as a $892 million project that includes $809 million for the ballpark itself and remaining funds for related expenses such as infrastructure.
What is still unknown at this point, however, is how the ballpark will be funded. A public-private partnership is expected to be in order, but the exact costs for all parties involved remain to be seen. Rays owner Stuart Sternberg had previously suggested that team could contribute $150 million, with that figure potentially increasing or decreasing depending upon the circumstances. He has indicated more recently that the team’s contribution could go beyond $150 million, but the exact number remains unknown. A member of Rays 2020, a group working to build support for the new ballpark, reported Sternberg as saying that the team could contribute $400 million if it receives enough support through areas like ticket sales and sponsorships. A Rays official downplayed the $400 million figure, but suggested that the team’s contribution could be higher than $150 million. More from WFLA.com:
Wednesday, Jason Woody, who is a part of the Rays 2020 initiative, indicated Sternberg is willing to put in much more for construction under the right conditions.
“If we get sponsorship and we get ticket sales, I’m in for $400 million. That’s kind of a different conversation,” Woody quoted Sternberg as saying.
A Tampa Bay Rays front office person says she had not heard Sternberg say he’s willing to put in $400 million, but did indicate the teams principal owner may be willing to contribute more than the $150 million contribution that has been widely reported.
Sternberg has also said recently that the team’s contribution will likely be more than $150 million, but some figures reported elsewhere have not suggested a payment as high as $400 million. In fact, in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times last week, Sternberg said he knows that the team’s contribution will not “be multiples,'” of $150 million:
“I absolutely know it will grow from there, but I also know it’s not going to be multiples” of $150 million, Sternberg told the Tampa Bay Times’ editorial board.
So, Sternberg was asked, could the team’s share be as much as half the project cost?
“I don’t envision it,” he said.
Again, the financing of the project is something that will have to sort itself out over negotiations. Local government will want as much as possible from the Rays, and private support–through the form of development surrounding the ballpark and commitment to sponsorships, tickets, and naming rights–will be a factor as well.
The new ballpark is being pitched for a 14-acre site north of Ybor Channel, and would serve as a replacement for Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. The Rays have sought to replace Tropicana Field for years, and an agreement approved by St. Petersburg officials in January 2016 gave the team three years to explore new ballpark sites. The Rays are currently committed to play at Tropicana Field through 2027, but under the terms of the three-year window could buy out of the lease for $2 million annually. In theory, that deal could be extended if negotiations over the Ybor City proposal need more time, but it remains to be seen if it will come to that point.
Rendering courtesy Tampa Bay Rays.
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