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Business Support Builds for New Rays Ballpark

Tampa Bay Rays Ybor City ballpark rendering 1

Plenty of work is needed to make it a reality, but a proposed new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark in Ybor City is drawing support from area businesses.

In their ongoing effort to replace Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, the Rays have zeroed in on a 14-acre site north of Ybor Channel in Tampa’s Ybor City neighborhood for a potential new ballpark. The team unveiled its concept for a new facility in July, calling for it to feature a fixed translucent roof and be constructed as part of an $892 million project.

The team and local government still have to sort out funding details for the ballpark, but area businesses are showing their support for the concept. According to a representative of Rays 2020–a group boosting the ballpark proposal–businesses are offering pledges for support through areas such as season tickets and sponsorships, providing signs of private sector support for the project. More from the Tampa Bay Times:

An effort to corral private sector support for a Tampa Bay Rays ballpark in Ybor City has generated millions of dollars in commitments so far, according to a booster group heading up the effort.

“We’ve got a tremendous response,” said attorney Ron Christaldi, a leader of the non-profit Rays 2020. “We touched about 25 percent of companies we intend to touch.”

Talks have included sponsorships and season ticket packages over and above commitments already in place for the Rays at Tropicana Field — as well as potentially bigger cash infusions.

“At least of couple of entities have some interest in naming rights and we are continuing those discussions,” Christaldi said.

Business support is a key component of the project, not just through pledges to sponsorships, tickets, or naming rights, but also development. Local officials are hoping that the ballpark can be a catalyst for development in the area and, while it remains to be seen if such investment occurs, the concept seemingly received a boost when the ballpark site was included within a federal economic opportunity zone.

Still, the financing of the ballpark is something that the Rays and local government have to sort out. A private-public partnership is likely in order, but the exact contributions of the parties involved–including the Rays and perhaps Hillsborough County and other government entities–remain unknown.

The Rays have sought to replace Tropicana Field for some time, 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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