If you’ve been reading our stories on the Tampa Bay Rays ballpark drama, you’ve seen we’ve been noting how the stars are aligning for a new-facility push. And so it begins during the 2021 MLB playoffs.
During a radio interview, Rays president Matt Silverman announced the team would be unveiling new signage against the back wall at Tropicana Field touting a Tampa Bay/Montreal team beginning the season in a new Tampa ballpark and ending the season at a new Montreal ballpark. From Tampa Bay Times:
“We’re going to add a sign in the rightfield foul territory with a very simple Tampa Bay Montreal graphic,” Silverman said. “Especially with the eyes of baseball on us this October, we want that visible symbol of our plan and our excitement for it. It will mark the effort subtly and keep the focus on winning.”
Silverman said that the split-season plan remains “the best and possibly only chance” to keep the team in the Tampa Bay area long term and that talks have been progressing in the background.
“I’m more optimistic today than I’ve ever been that we’re going to make this happen,” he said.
As you’ll recall from this August article, we noted the idea of a new Tampa Bay/Montreal arrangement was gaining momentum, with Tampa elected officials confident they could work with the Rays on a new-ballpark plan. Now Montreal election officials expressing confidence they could as well work with the Rays on a new-ballpark plan. From the Montreal Gazette:
The incumbent mayor said she had a Zoom meeting with main promoter Stephen Bronfman a few months ago and viewed a model of the proposed stadium near the Peel Basin.
“We had a great conversation about what needs to be taken in consideration,” she said….
“It would be within a dense, a strong community close to downtown, so everything needs to be looked at with this in mind,” said Plante, adding that she is “really attached” to the holding of public consultations on the project.
Earlier this year the Rays revived the notion of an Ybor City ballpark location. That may not be the best location, for a variety of reasons. Indeed, you will likely see some officials bring up the notion of a ballpark located near or even next to Raymond James Stadium, a location with plenty of intriguing pluses (available land, easily accessible) and an underserved area ripe for economic revival. It’s not hard to imagine a mixed-use development centered on residential and retail located next to an MLB ballpark and NFL stadium that also hosts college football and high-profile soccer matches.
Also to watch: there are more moving parts in the Tampa Bay Rays sports-facilities planning than just these two new ballparks. Team officials have spoken of moving spring training back to the Al Lang Field site, now used for pro soccer. (And the downtown St. Petersburg site is spectacular; imagine a new facility with views of the marina.) And speaking of soccer: the Tampa Bay Rays are also in the soccer business as owners of the USL Championship Tampa Bay Rowdies. Soccer has been discussed as part of a mixed-use development at the Tropicana Field site once the Rays leave and the facility comes down, and the Rays are likely to be part of those discussions in some form. Again, lots of moving parts and lots of chatter, but parts that could dramatically change the look of pro sports in Tampa-St. Pete.
Photo of proposed covered Ybor City ballpark from the Rays; presumably the design has changed once the Rays started discussing an open-air ballpark.
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