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Rays Ballpark Funding Plan Could Emerge By Year’s End

Tampa Bay Rays Ybor City ballpark rendering 8

With a key deadline approaching, the Tampa Bay Rays want to see the financial framework for a proposed ballpark in Ybor City take shape by year’s end.

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.

Negotiation over the funding is a major step in the process that still has to be completed, and the Rays want to have a better sense of the financial framework by the end of this year. An agreement approved by St. Petersburg officials in January 2016 gave the team three years to explore new ballpark sites, and it is approaching its deadline. 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.

With the expiration of that agreement in mind, the team reportedly wants a financial framework to take shape over the coming months. Piecing together a funding structure between now and the end of this year would give the Rays a better sense of where negotiations with Hillsborough County,and potentially other parties, stand before they address their deadline with St. Petersburg. More from the Tampa Bay Times:

The Tampa Bay Rays are pushing Hillsborough officials to present a financing “structure” for a new ballpark before its deal to look for a home outside of St. Petersburg runs out Dec. 31, according to Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan.

The plan would detail how a new stadium will be paid for and provide long-awaited answers about how much the team is willing to contribute. To that end, serious negotiations with the Rays are expected to start in the “near future,” Hagan said Wednesday at a meeting of the Rotary Club of Ybor City.

If agreement on a financing plan can be reached, it will be followed by an economic study on the impact of a new ballpark and a surrounding entertainment district.

“This will allow us to have a very transparent public discussion on the merits of the proposal, as well as the value of the team remaining in Tampa Bay,” Hagan said.

It has been anticipated that the new Rays ballpark could be developed as part of a public-private partnership, but the exact cost shares and funding sources are still unknown. 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. Having development surround the ballpark would follow more recent trends around baseball–in fact, the Atlanta Braves’ SunTrust Park and adjacent The Battery Atlanta is something of a model for the proposed Rays ballpark–while bringing more tax revenue into the area.

Rendering courtesy Tampa Bay Rays.

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