Questions remain in dazzling proposal
Why are the Rays doing this?
Because they want to. The Rays could stay at Tropicana Field, but say they are making this pitch because they see the opportunity to not only get a new stadium but to help transform downtown as well.
What if this stadium deal falls through?
From what the Rays say, things would be pretty much status quo. They’d keep playing at Tropicana Field – they have a lease through 2027 – and probably try again for a new stadium at a later date. But it would remain to be seen how long Stuart Sternberg would want to own the team in that situation.
What would the new stadium be called?
It depends who wants to pay for it, because the naming rights will be available for purchase. According to the Rays, Tropicana’s naming rights are specific to the current stadium, so presumably they would get a refund. There is talk of preserving the history and tradition of the site by including a reference to Al Lang – in either the stadium name or the “cove” behind the rightfield wall – to preserve the tradition.
What’s with the design?
Rather than a brick-based retro look that has been all the rage, the Rays are looking to the future with what principal owner Stuart Sternberg termed a “more sweeping, open, inviting” design. And without a brick in it.
What’s the tall pole all about?
That’s a 320-foot mast that anchors the roof and is part of what the Rays consider an "iconic" design.
What are the specifics?
The stadium would hold 34,000 fans (most in the lower deck) and would be open air with a cable supported, sail-like covering that a team official described as "a glorified umbrella." The field would have standard dimensions. Balls hit over the rightfield wall would splash into the bay.
Isn’t it going to be hot and sweaty?
Of course, it’s Florida in the summer time. But the Rays say it will be reasonably comfortable – more so than Atlanta, on par with St. Louis or Kansas City – for several reasons: the roof, which will be deployed during the day to keep heat from building up; the breezes off Tampa Bay; and cooling devices such as fans or misters.
What about rain and lighting?
The sail-like cover can be deployed in about eight minutes, and the Rays say it would provide enough covering to prevent postponements and delays expect in the most severe storms.
What about parking?
It may be a problem, especially at first. Like Wrigley Field in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston, there will be very little parking at the site. The Rays say there are currently are about 12,000 spots within a short walk of the stadium, and there may be more when it opens. Fans would have to get used to walking or taking shuttles.
Is there really enough room for a stadium on that site?
It’s going to be tight, but by reorienting the field – so rightfield abuts the water – and extending Bayshore Drive into the bay it can fit with standard dimensions. To make it work, there would be no seats from the rightfield foul pole across to left-centerfield.
Would players like it?
The heat would certainly have an effect on the players, as it does in Texas and Miami, though they might enjoy being outside. The Rays would likely play as many games at night as they could.
Would there be more than Rays games there?
Probably. The stadium could accommodate a football field, which could lead to a college bowl game, and could be the site of concerts and other events.
How can the Rays sell the Tropicana site even though they don’t own it?
They can’t. The team would need the city and Pinellas County to agree.
What about the debt the city and county still have outstanding on Tropicana Field?
The Rays said what to do about the debt remains a question.
Do the Rays have a developer in mind for the Tropicana site?
Yes. The Rays are working with Hines Interests of Houston. But because the land is publicly owned, the city would have to issue a request for proposals from developers. A developer other than Hines could be awarded the site.
What retail options are coming to the Tropicana site?
The Rays won’t say. But they do at least have one specific major outdoors retailer in mind.
Where’s the money coming from for the new stadium?
The biggest chunk, the Rays say, would come from the sale of Tropicana Field and adjacent parking lots to a private developer. The Rays say that transaction could raise between $250-$300-million toward the new stadium. But that includes property tax revenues generated by the redeveloped Trop site.
What are the Rays contributing?
The team said it is prepared to increase its rent payments from about $1-million a year to $10-million a year. The money, which will be paid to the city, would then help pay for construction of the new ballpark.
Is the team seeking money from the state?
Yes. The Rays say the money, $60-million paid out over 30 years, is important but not a deal breaker.
Who’s on the hook if the stadium goes over its $450-million budget?
The Rays say they will cover cost overruns.
– Marc Topkin and Aaron Sharockman, Times Staff Writers