SUN CITY CENTER — Business leaders and volunteers determined to help the Rays baseball team find a new stadium home in Ybor City are willing to go to every corner of Tampa Bay to raise awareness and support.
Including Sun City Center.
Tampa Bay Rays 2020 brought its road show to the Sun City Center Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Thursday with the expressed purpose of getting members in this 55-plus community to embrace the proposed $892 million Ybor City stadium and support the local team.
"We are here to explain what this project means to our region, its transformational aspect," said Yvonne Fry, owner of Fryed Eggs Productions and a supporter of Tampa Bay Rays 2020. "The Rays serve as an economic engine to fuel growth and development for this community for generations to come.
"We are speaking to groups all over this area," Fry added, "to connect with folks and share what is happening with the Rays and what the opportunities are as we get people involved shoulder to shoulder with us."
The group’s presentations focused on what makes Ybor a viable location for the stadium. In a video screened at the luncheon, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said, "When you think about how far we have come as a city, this journey that we are on, and where we are in this storybook we call Tampa, I cannot think of a better connection, a better conduit, a better point on that map than Ybor City.
"The Rays deserve our best efforts."
What are some advantages for this new location? For residents of the SouthShore area, Ybor City dramatically reduces the length of the trip to see a ballgame by about 20 minutes. Population density around Ybor also expects to increase attendance because it will be convenient to more than 300,000 people living within a five-mile radius of the park.
With a population of 1.6 million people living within 35 miles of the site, more people could decide a trip to a baseball game is more easily attainable. Low attendance at the current park is due in part to limited access, while the new location expects to be an attendance booster.
Jason Woody, CEO of the Lion’s Eye Institute and another Tampa Bay Rays 2020 "ambassador," described other selling points of this ambitious project.
"First of all, it will have a roof, the only one of its kind," Woody said." It will be completely clear. No other ballpark in the country has this type of roof.
"Also, by design, it is the smallest major league ballpark in the country seating about 30,000. It is designed to provide the most intimate player/fan experience in the majors. You will have the closest seats to the field reminiscent of a spring training game."
As far as economic development, Woody said impact studies project that the new stadium will generate up to 2,700 jobs.
"That’s about 25 to 50 million dollars," Woody said.
He also sees it as a destination for tourists and local visitors. It will house a public park and provide a family friendly environment complete with playground equipment. Another plus is that a venue of this size will attract large events and concerts, which have not been possible before.
"We often lose a lot of concerts because of the lack of seating, so they go to Orlando or to Miami."
The bottom line seems to be that having a major league baseball team impacts all of Tampa Bay, including Sun City Center and the SouthShore and Brandon area.
"There are only 30 MLB teams and it is a privilege for our community to have one of them," said Nick Lanese, owner of Lanese and Associates of Sun City Center and a chamber member. "I think it’s great that the Rays are here in Tampa Bay. Not only am I a fan, but I think it has a huge economic impact on this whole area."
Woody concluded their presentation by describing the Rays as an asset for the entire community.
"We may live in different parts of Hillsborough County but we’re all still one big community and this is an asset we cannot afford to lose."
To get more information about the projected stadium or to sign the petition showing support for the new ballpark, visit tampabayrays2020.com/promote.
Contact Kathy Straub at [email protected]