Wednesday, November 14, 2018
News Roundup

Rays ready to unveil design, cost projection for Ybor City ballpark

TAMPA — For more than two years, business and civic leaders in Hillsborough County have pitched the idea of a new Rays ballpark to the public with no real idea what it would look like or how much it would cost.

That will all change Tuesday.

That’s when the Rays plan to unveil drawings of a new ballpark and in the process provide some long-awaited answers about the team’s push for a new home.

Will it be a retractable or translucent domed roof? How many seats? Where will home plate be?

And most crucial of all: How much will it cost?

The milestone comes five months after principal owner Stu Sternberg announced that the team had picked a 14-acre site in Ybor City as its preferred new home. The Rays have been working with Populous, an international architect firm that also designed the team’s spring training ballpark in Port Charlotte.

RELATED: Ybor City is top choice for next Rays ballpark

The drawings will give the public the first glimpse of how a ballpark would fit into the historic Latin neighborhood near downtown and will make it easier to grow support for the project, said Hillsborough Commissioner Ken Hagan, who helped open the door for the Rays to pursue a move to Tampa.

"When we initially rolled out the location, that generated a significant amount of support," Hagan said. "This will only help us to gain momentum and gain the necessary corporate and community support."

But no matter how innovative and appealing the design, Hagan and other local leaders still face an uphill task to figure out how to pay for a stadium, a cost estimated at around $800 million.

The Rays have yet to officially disclose how much they would be willing to pay. Both Hagan and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn have said raising taxes is not an option, although money set aside for community improvement projects could be used for utility lines and road realignment to support a ballpark. Profits from surrounding development may also be part of the financing plan.

That makes it even more vital to get corporate support — a pitch that will be easier to make now that the ballpark is more than an abstract concept, Hagan said.

Enlisting corporate support is the job of Rays 2020, a booster group headed by Chuck Sykes of Sykes Enterprises and Tampa attorney Ron Christaldi. The non-profit group has signed up 100 companies willing to help finance the team’s move to Ybor City, including Outback Steakhouse and Tech Data.

"They’re working hard," Hagan said. "This will be another tool to allow them to galvanize that support."

Crowds at Tropicana Field, where the team is under contract to play through 2027, have been the smallest in Major League Baseball over the past six years.

After years of lobbying by the team, St. Petersburg finally agreed in 2016 to let the Rays officials explore potential sites around Tampa Bay. But that agreement runs out at the end of this year, when the team must let city officials know if it plans to exercise an out clause.

Comments by Rays officials at community meetings have provided a few clues about what the stadium might look like.

RELATED: Five takeaways on new Ybor City ballpark

Their lofty goal is to build a next-generation ballpark that will double as a community destination beyond game days. Among the ideas thrown out by Rays President Brian Auld are a part-time community park, a fitness center that doubles as a wellness program for the University of South Florida, and kitchens that offer culinary classes.

A full upper deck is unlikely since it’s expensive and so hard to fill at the Trop that it’s usually covered with a blue tarp.

The ballpark’s exterior may include a tip of the hat to Ybor City’s century-old Cuban and Italian social clubs and iconic balconies and brick exteriors. Rays Chief Development Officer Melanie Lenz and a three-member stadium design team toured Ybor City n April to experience the neighborhood’s historic architecture firsthand.

Hagan said no one outside the team has seen the renderings yet.

"I know the team has put a lot of work into the design," he said, "and I’m excited to see it."

Contact Christopher O’Donnell at [email protected] or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.

Comments
Chick-fil-A now offering delivery, celebrates by giving away free sandwiches

Chick-fil-A now offering delivery, celebrates by giving away free sandwiches

Chick-Fil-A will give away free classic chicken sandwiches to customers who order at least $5 worth of food from DoorDash, a delivery service.
Updated: 1 hour ago
Forecast: At long last, cool fall temperatures in Tampa Bay are a day away

Forecast: At long last, cool fall temperatures in Tampa Bay are a day away

A cool breeze, clear skies and sweaters should be the defining features of this weekend as a cold front sweeps over Tampa Bay. A welcome change after a week of heat and humidity.
Updated: 1 hour ago
It seems that Madden knows something the Buccaneers donít

It seems that Madden knows something the Buccaneers donít

For the fourth straight season, Madden is on track to accurately predict Tampa Bay's win-loss record.
Updated: 2 hours ago
10 things about Blake Snellís Cy Young worthy season

10 things about Blake Snellís Cy Young worthy season

10 things about Blake Snell's Cy Young worthy season:* His 1.89 ERA in third best among AL pitchers in the DH era (since 1973), trailing unanimous Cy Young award winners Ron Guidry, 1.74 for ' 78 Yankees, and Pedro Martinez, 1.74 for '00 Red Sox.* Hi...
Updated: 2 hours ago
These are the 'worst toys' of the holiday season

These are the 'worst toys' of the holiday season

A Black Panther "slash claw" and a plastic Power Rangers sword are among the items topping a consumer safety group's annual list of worst toys for the holiday season.
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tampa takes top Florida city for singles, but overall Florida not best state for love

Tampa takes top Florida city for singles, but overall Florida not best state for love

WalletHub recently released its "Best & Worst Cities for Singles" and Florida didn't fare all that well. Tampa was able to take the 29th spot making it the best performing city in the Sunshine State.
Updated: 3 hours ago
Treshaun Ward, Ahmarean Brown decommit from Maryland

Treshaun Ward, Ahmarean Brown decommit from Maryland

Two of the area's top recruits in the 2019 class, Tampa Bay Tech running back Treshaun Ward and Jefferson receiver Ahmarean Brown, both reneged on their commitment to Maryland on Tuesday.Their decisions, each made via Twitter, come nearly two weeks a...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Tampa Bay comic book artists and fans react to Stan Lee’s death

Tampa Bay comic book artists and fans react to Stan Lee’s death

Tampa Bay is home to comic book industry professionals and fans — even a superhero — who were impacted by the Marvel icon and his work.
Updated: 4 hours ago
The Daystarter: A whole lot of suing going on in the Florida recount; why Rick Scott and Bill Nelson are smack in the middle; a Hall of Fame kind of night for Martin St. Louis

The Daystarter: A whole lot of suing going on in the Florida recount; why Rick Scott and Bill Nelson are smack in the middle; a Hall of Fame kind of night for Martin St. Louis

The Daystarter: Marc Topkin on Rays’ manager Kevin Cash falling short of the top AL manager award; Graham Brink on why Amazon just isn’t that into Tampa Bay; and Tom Jones on why the Bucs are keeping Jameis Winston on the bench.
Updated: 4 hours ago
Who has been more disappointing: Florida State or Miami?

Who has been more disappointing: Florida State or Miami?

Times columnist Martin Fennelly and writer Matt Baker discuss which former powerhouse has had a worse 2018.
Updated: 5 hours ago