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New, larger downtown site emerging as potential Rays home

Tampa Bay RaysIt’s still being discussed in various hushed tones and far from a done deal, but a new, larger Tampa downtown site is emerging as the location of a potential Rays home.

With a plan to play part of the season in Montreal scrapped, the Tampa Bay Rays are reportedly shifting from a plan for a modest Ybor City facility to a larger, domed ballpark that will serve as year-round home for the MLB team. The Ybor City land once eyed for the modest ballpark isn’t a large enough site for a domed facility, however, leading the team to look elsewhere for the facility.

Emerging as a potential home: 25 acres of waterfront property between Ybor City and the Florida Aquarium, currently in the process of being sold to entrepreneur Darryl Shaw. For those following the various plans for a potential Rays home, the name should be familiar: he’s been working with the team on assembling parcels for a new Rays ballpark on two occasions (here and here). This 25-acre waterfront site has also been considered in the past for a new Rays ballpark as well.

Also in play: The 86-acre Tropicana Field site. True, it sounds like the team is interested more in Tampa than St. Pete for a variety of reasons, but there are plenty of reasons for the Rays to talk new ballpark with developers on a large project there. First, public funding may be easier to come by in Pinellas County than in Hillsborough County, thanks to the availability of hotel taxes. Second, the city is actively seeking a development plan for the site and, at 86 acres, there’s plenty of land for a new ballpark, a mixed-use entertainment district (think The District), and affordable housing. From the Tampa Bay Times:

“City and county officials on both sides of the bay seem to appreciate the value of baseball and are focused on finding a solution,” Rays president Matt Silverman said. “The discussions are going on simultaneously in a parallel, non-competitive, non-adversarial way.

“Everyone understands time is of the essence.”

Time is indeed of the essence: this may be the last shot for the Rays to make a new ballpark deal, given MLB’s frustration at how long the Rays have been working for a new ballpark. Some of this has to do with the peculiar circumstances of Florida politics and especially of the fractured nature of Tampa Bay governance, but part of this delay has to do with the changing exceptions of ballpark development. Given the changing nature of corporate operations in a post-COVID era, being in downtown Tampa near the corporate core may not be the sell it once was, and given the perceived success of ballpark developments as destinations, St. Petersburg becomes an attractive location.

ELATED NEWS: Manfred once again calls for sense of urgency about new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark; Manfred: Rays ballpark search now requires “sense of urgency”MLB announces 2022 MiLB experimental rules; Rays pull plug on joint Tampa/Montreal tenancy after MLB Exec Council decisionTampa/Montreal baseball plan moves forward, inch by inchTampa mayor: Rays ballpark financial plan in worksRays envision a pedestrian-friendly Ybor City ballparkAnother Ybor City site considered for new Rays ballparkNew Oakland A’s waterfront ballpark receives OK from waterfront commission staffVegas investor says A’s have “strong interest” in Tropicana siteKaval: We’re down to two potential sites for new Vegas ballparkMore lawsuits challenge new Oakland A’s ballparkLawsuit challenges new Oakland ballpark

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