In a sign that work is progressing on a new facility, Tampa officials are requesting $43 million in state infrastructure money to improve pedestrian access to an Ybor City location envisioned as hosting a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark.
Though it’s not been officially been announced, it’s no secret the Rays are looking at a ballpark at the former 18-acre Kforce staffing and services company site in Ybor City. We’re not talking about a palatial home here–it’s billed as a ballpark with 25,000 or so seats, with a likely capacity of 35,000 at the most–but as a companion to a new Montreal ballpark, it would keep the team in Tampa for the first half of the season.
The clear signs the Kforce property is in play: the city is requesting $43 million in state funding for two separate projects, each designed to improve bicycle, scooter and pedestrian access between the ballpark site and two popular city destinations: Armature Works and the Channel District. The Armature Works area has emerged as a popular nightspot, including a food hall and the Ulele restaurant, while the Channel District features Amalie Arena and a host of attractions, as well as new development that includes high-end housing and office space.
The plan to improve access between these areas is not new: the city was looking at upgraded transit options before Ybor City became a ballpark site pushed by the Rays. From the Tampa Bay Times:
The proposed corridors would link the ballpark to two popular spots on the downtown Riverwalk: Armature Works and the Channel District. They would be completed by 2025, according to the city.
The team doesn’t have a deal in place yet to move from St. Petersburg, where they’ve played since 1998, to Tampa. But the accelerating discussions about access improvements and infrastructure that would make it easier to get fans in the seats underscore how serious the team is about moving across the bay.
City leaders have long wanted to increase mobility options between downtown and Ybor, Tampa Heights and the Channel District. Former Mayor Bob Buckhorn talked often about creating a seamless circle of activity and development around downtown. And Castor has made mobility one of her top priorities since taking office in 2019.
Also on the table for these ballpark-related transit needs: some sort of light-rail system. From the city’s perspective, the transit improvements aren’t contingent on a new Rays ballpark: as noted, city leaders have targeted this area for transit upgrades for years, and they’ll benefit the city even if the Rays leave town.
RELATED STORIES: Another Ybor City site considered for new Rays ballpark; On second thought: No Montreal promo for Rays playoffs; Rays to push Montreal plans during playoffs; Is Tampa ballpark bid gaining momentum?; It’s back: Rays revive Ybor City ballpark plan; Rays Steadily Pitching Case for Tampa Bay-Montreal Proposal; Tampa, Hillsborough County Officials Work to Lure Rays; Rays Advance Talks With St. Pete About Partial Montreal Move; Rob Manfred Backs Rays’ Pursuit of Split-Season Plan; Rays Said to Have Threatened to Block Tropicana Field Development; Tampa Mayor: Maybe Tampa/Montreal Split Season Plan Can Work; Rays Will Pursue Tampa Bay/Montreal Split in 2028; Kriseman: No Split Season for the Rays; Rays Advance Talks With St. Pete About Partial Montreal Move; Tampa Should Reopen Rays Ballpark Talks: Mayor; Manfred: Rays’ Split Season Pitch is Way to Keep Team in Tampa Bay; Bronfman: Rays Proposal is Key First Step to MLB Return to Montreal; New St. Petersburg Ballpark Could Factor into Rays Tampa Bay/Montreal Plan; Plenty of Obstacles to Tampa Bay/Montreal Plan; MLB: Rays Can Discuss Tampa/Montreal Split Season; Agreement Reached on Potential Montreal Ballpark Site; Vision for New Montreal MLB Ballpark: Anchor for Mixed-Use Development; Montreal Group Methodically Building Case for MLB’s Return; Political Reaction to Montreal MLB Ballpark Site: Mixed; Site Emerging for New Montreal MLB Ballpark; Report: Support High for MLB’s Return to Montreal; Quebec’s Main Parties Open to Partnering on New Montreal Ballpark