Monday, June 18, 2018
  • The Heater
  • Marc Topkin

Inspiration for Rays stadium design? From a sculpture of a bird

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays officials say they don't — and until designers and architects weigh in, won't — know exactly how their planned new stadium in Ybor City will look.

But they have what seems to be an unusual inspiration — Romanian artist Constantin Brancusi's marble sculpture Bird in Space.

"That's been our guiding design for the stadium," principal owner Stuart Sternberg said at the team Fan Fest on Saturday.

What? How?

Sternberg said they are looking for an "ultra modern" design to make it a "minimalist, iconic, porous facility."

And they apparently see interpretation in Brancusi's work that, though completed in 1923, has a sleek, abstract look in which he elongated the body, eliminated wings and feathers and reduced the beak and head to a single oval.

"We're going to continue to push the designers really hard," Sternberg said the day after announcing the Ybor project was the team's choice for a new home. "If the stadium is done correctly, it's going to be iconic yet you won't even know it's there."

Though Sternberg allowed that they will incorporate some elements of the historic Ybor neighborhood, including the historic bricks, it seems clear the Rays will be otherwise bucking tradition.

Given advancements in technology, there also could be discussions about transparent walls (such as in Minnesota's football stadium) and even a roof, though Sternberg said they haven't gotten that far yet.

"There's going to be stuff that's never been seen before, I know that," Sternberg said. "Whatever's been done, we can do, and a lot more."

In working the room among the 15,000 attending Fan Fest, Sternberg said most of the people who approached him said they were excited about the proposed move to Tampa and that it would be more convenient, and that even those who said it would be harder to get to understood it was necessary.

He said he also had to remind people — including team employees — that even in the best-case scenario of design, securing financing and construction, the team would be playing at the Trop for at least four more seasons.

Baseball business

The Cubs' reported deal with top free agent RHP Yu Darvish could — finally — mean there will be movement in the starting pitchers' market for more signings and trades.

That's relevant to the Rays, as they have been talking about dealing RHP Jake Odorizzi with a number of teams, said to include the Brewers, Twins, Cardinals, Angels and possibly Orioles. That Odorizzi has an arbitration hearing in Arizona on Monday — over the small difference between $6.05 million and $6.35 million — adds to the intrigue.

Without talking specifics, Sternberg acknowledged they had hoped to be more active in making deals to trim payroll while improving the organization by adding prospects.

"We haven't been able to accomplish both, and if we can't accomplish both we're not going to do something just for the sake of doing it," he said.

Catching prospect suspended

Catching prospect Nick Ciuffo, a 2013 first-round pick, was suspended 50 games by the commissioner's office for a second positive test for a "drug of abuse."

Ciuffo, 22, was an invitee to big-league camp after a solid 2017 season at Double-A Montgomery, hitting .245 with seven homers, 42 RBIs and a .704 OPS. He posted an apology on Twitter:

In a statement, Rays GM Erik Neander said: "We are disappointed by Nick's actions, and we expect more from our players. We hope that Nick will take this opportunity to reassess his priorities both during spring training and once the suspension takes effect."

No specifics of the violation were released. Under the minor-league testing program, marijuana is considered a drug of abuse.

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