Atlanta and Texas lap Rays with new stadium plans
Remember 2007? The splashy announcement about a new baseball stadium on the waterfront? Remember the Sail?
It's been a long time since Tampa Bay baseball fans had a chance to dream about new digs. Yes, the team is evaluating sites now. And decision is expected sometime in the next six to eight months after the team reached a January agreement with the St. Petersburg City Council to explore other spots in the region.
And, by the end of September, HKS, a New York firm, will have a master plan for Tropicana Field's 85 acres that will feature a stadium as part of the redevelopment. They're in the stadium business so some splashy renderings of a new ballpark might well be delivered, too.
Meawhile, two Major League Baseball teams -- the Atlanta Braves and Texas Rangers --- are moving ahead with new stadiums. Both of their current homes were built after the Trop: Globe Life Park opened in 1994; Turner Field in 1996.
The Braves will play in neighboring Cobb County next season. The turnaround from announcement to halfway mark has been speedy, although the process has come under fire for its secrecy, lack of a public vote and how to pay for a pedestrian bridge across I-285.
The Rangers shocked the baseball world last week when they announced plans for a new stadium with a retractable roof, thus promising an eventual end to the annual sweat lodge experience of watching summertime baseball in north Texas. The Arlington City Council votes tonight on the $1 billion plan to be funded with a 1/2 cent sales tax hike along with car rental and hotel tax increases. That stadium is due to be completed in 2021 if voters approve the deal in November.
That means it's all but certain that the Rays, who kicked off their stadium search nearly a decade ago before a protracted stalement with St. Petersburg began, will be playing at the Trop for at least a year or two after the Rangers and Braves open their ballparks.
How will those efforts impact the Rays? The team isn't commenting, but it's safe to say that if things go south in Atlanta or DFW, it could make for a harder slog in Tampa Bay for the Rays. Of course, the reverse is also true.