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Mid-Pinellas site in mix for new Rays stadium

A vacant block in the Gateway area of St. Petersburg is emerging as a potential new home for the Tampa Bay Rays.

The site, 15 acres in the Carillon office complex, would be closer to Tampa and north Pinellas County than either Tropicana Field or the failed proposal for Al Lang Field.

The Carillon location also has twice as many people within a 30-minute drive than either downtown St. Petersburg site, according to an internal report released by the Rays.

The possibility of a stadium at Carillon, which the team studied along with six other sites, gives further credence to an eventual mid county move for the Rays.

The Rays' analysis does not reach a conclusion. In fact, team senior vice president Michael Kalt says much of the work was done before the team announced plans for a $450-million waterfront stadium in 2007. But the original list of seven sites, including Carillon, is now back in play as a community group starts to evaluate potential stadium locations.

The sites include: Carillon, Al Lang Field, Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport, the Toytown landfill, the former sod farm property south of Valpak off Interstate 275, and Derby Lane.

Rays officials told the community group studying sites — called A Baseball Community — it also may consider options not on the list, including locations in Hillsborough County.

"Politically, we weren't prepared to go there (in the analysis)," Kalt said.

But the 64-page study clearly suggests three favorites: Al Lang Field, Tropicana Field and Carillon.

While the pluses and minuses of the two downtown St. Petersburg sites have been well-documented, the possibilities at the privately owned Carillon parcel may come as a surprise. The 15-acre site sits to the south of a Publix on Ulmerton Road between Carillon and Fountain parkways. It is owned by Echelon Development.

According to the Rays study, 1.22-million people live within a 30-minute drive of Carillon, the most people of any potential location and double the amounts surrounding Al Lang and Tropicana fields.

The Carillon site is easily accessible, the Rays say, via Interstate 275 from Ulmerton Road and Roosevelt Boulevard.

Parking also is already in place. Carillon has some 19,000 commercial parking spaces, the majority of which are within a half-mile walk, the Rays say. For a sellout, the Rays estimate needing about 12,000 spaces.

The site, which is in the middle of what is largely an office park, could be compatible with night time use of a baseball stadium, the Rays say.

It "could be included in a master plan for a new mixed-use stadium community … to help solidify Carillon Park and Gateway as a true center with year-round daytime and evening amenities to serve the entire region," the report says.

The biggest question is whether the land is available — and at what cost. The team says the land has an appraised market value of $9.8-million.

Echelon Development chief executive Darryl LeClair did not return a message seeking comments Wednesday. Another official with the company, Michael Talmadge, told the St. Petersburg Times the prospect of a ballpark in Carillon could be exciting, but difficult to execute.

"I don't know anything about it," he said.

Yet to be seen is whether the community group studying stadium sites sees things the same way the team does. The group, led by Progress Energy chief executive Jeff Lyash, has yet to discuss the Carillon site, or any other location in detail, officials said.

And it could be a year before the group makes a recommendation on a possible site. The group meets next Jan. 15.

Ballpark Frankness

Will the Carillon area work? Go to blogs.tampa bay.com/ballpark and leave your opinion.

Mid-Pinellas site in mix for new Rays stadium 12/31/08 [Last modified: Friday, January 2, 2009 7:13pm]
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