TAMPA — While the city of St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Rays continue their long impasse over the future of the team on the Pinellas side of the bay, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan wants to keep the options for a Tampa stadium open on his side of the water.
That's why he's asked Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and his partners to keep baseball in mind as they decide what to do with the 12 acres of empty property they own in downtown Tampa's Channel District.
Hagan said he's been having those conversations with Vinik and his team for the past six months or so. Vinik's team has not made any public statements about how they might develop those parcels. They have regularly declined to comment on those plans and especially on the subject of the Rays.
But the commissioner wanted to make sure that the Vinik team, in deciding what to do with the Channel District properties, doesn't eliminate the possibility that a stadium could be built in downtown Tampa. It could be adjacent to those properties, or even using part of them.
The message from Hagan, essentially: Keep a downtown Tampa baseball stadium in mind.
"They are in the process of going through a strategic planning on their property," Hagan said. "What I've asked them is, please, as you move forward, don't do anything that would prevent the possibility of your land being considered for a future Rays stadium."
But, Hagan added: "No one is going to tell Mr. Vinik what to do with his land."