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Tampa Mayor-Elect: Rays Belong Here

Tampa Bay Rays Ybor City ballpark rendering 1

Fresh off her election victory, Tampa mayor-elect Jane Castor is expressing her desire to bring the Tampa Bay Rays to the city. 

The Rays spent much of last year in discussions over a proposed ballpark in Tampa’s Ybor City, which was viewed by proponents as a facility that could anchor surrounding development while boosting the Rays by securing them a home in the Tampa Bay region’s largest city (a rendering of that proposal is shown above). Negotiations with Hillsborough County officials ultimately broke down in December, however, with the Rays ending discussions under the belief that the $892 million plan was not financially feasible.

There are now political leadership changes taking place as the city level, as Castor defeated David Straz by wide margin in Tuesday’s runoff election to succeed the term-limited Bob Buckhorn as Tampa’s mayor. As she prepares to assume the office, Castor is showing an interest in picking up discussions about a ballpark plan that could lure the Rays to Tampa. Any effort to bring the Rays to Tampa now faces extra hurdles, however, as St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman is pointing out. A three-year window granted by St. Petersburg that effectively allowed the team to explore a new ballpark in Tampa expired without renewal at the end of last year, locking the Rays into a Tropicana Field lease that runs through 2027. More from the Tampa Bay Times:

“Whether it’s me who has the conversation with her, or her staff, she has a lot to get up to speed on … including this issue,” Kriseman said Wednesday when briefed on Castor’s comments earlier in the day to the Tampa Bay Times.

Castor said the population distribution in Tampa Bay “puts the stadium, in my view, in Tampa.”

“So I will do what I can to have the Rays move to Tampa. I believe the Rays are amenable to that, they want to stay in the area,” Castor said. “I think we have several locations in Tampa that will be viable.”

Castor and Kriseman haven’t talked since her election, but Castor said she intends to have a great working relationship with him as well as Clearwater, Pinellas and Hillsborough county governments.

Reopening discussions about a Tampa ballpark would require the Rays to reach a new agreement with St. Petersburg, and it remains to be seen if such a deal could be secured. Additionally, the Rays have not ruled out the idea of trying to find a solution for a new ballpark in St. Petersburg, with the Tampa Bay Times reporting that “Kriseman said he expects to have an answer by this summer on the team’s future in St. Petersburg.” At the very least, however, Castor’s comments show that there could be political support at the city level for having the Rays in Tampa, something that would surely help the club if they are ever in a position to resume talks there.

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