The Tampa Bay Rays have rejected a proposed Ybor City ballpark site as being financially unfeasible, launching a new search for the Tampa Bay area.
The city and local business leaders had proposed a $892-million Ybor City ballpark that was to open in 2023, but the team pulled the effort on the endeavor, saying the funding plan was not coming together quickly enough and too many details were not pinned down. Because of the lack of progress, the team was not inclined to ask for an extension of the Dec. 31 deal giving the team the ability to negotiate a new ballpark location outside St. Petersburg. The team’s Tropicana Field lease runs through 2027, and given how long it takes to fund, plan and build a Major League Baseball ballpark, it’s likely to run out that commitment. From the Tampa Bay Times:
“I’m firmly committed to helping the Rays remain and thrive in Tampa Bay for decades and generations to come,” Sternberg said. “Major League Baseball is a large part of what defines Tampa Bay as a major-league region and I continue to be enthusiastic about finding a way forward.”
But he also noted, citing the failed 2007-08 effort to build on the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront, in perhaps ominous baseball terms, “We’re at two strikes right now.”
Sternberg said they are are a “pretty resourceful” and “pretty determined” group and remain optimistic about finding a new home in the Tampa Bay area, with no plans to try to leave the area before the end of 2027 use agreement at the Trop.
The decision to look for a new site in the Tampa Bay area also raises the possibility of the team building a new ballpark next to the Trop, as proposed by St. Petersburg officials earlier in the process. St. Petersburg had targeted the Trop site for new development no matter if the Rays come or go, but this particular scenario has a new ballpark anchoring a mixed-use development, serving as a gateway of sorts to downtown St. Pete.
There are serious suitors for a relocating Rays franchise, including Montreal (which would be the emotional choice for a new location), Portland and Las Vegas. Montreal has been working on an MLB bid for years now, while the Portland Diamond Project released renderings and a site plan for a new riverfront ballpark in November.
Rendering courtesy Tampa Bay Rays.
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