Wednesday, December 13, 2017
News Roundup

Oldsmar dreams big, pitches new Rays stadium

OLDSMAR — It may be news to residents of Tampa and St. Petersburg, but Oldsmar bills itself as the hub of Tampa Bay.

And that's why Mayor Doug Bevis is convinced his community of just 14,000 is ready to rub shoulders with the likes of New York and Chicago as a home for major-league baseball.

Bevis and Tampa architect Francisco Semsch made their pitch Thursday to sell Oldsmar as a stadium site for the Tampa Bay Rays, unveiling a plan for offices, hotels, restaurants and, yes, a new ballpark on 120 acres of land just west of Race Track Road.

The site's biggest selling point: It straddles the Hillsborough-Pinellas county line, meaning tax revenue from both counties could potentially help pay for the ballpark, which is estimated to cost at least $600 million.

But would the Rays and MLB, which, in recent years, has favored urban settings for new ballparks, really consider a small city in the hinterlands of Pinellas?

Bevis said the plan is more than just a pipe dream.

"You've got to invest some time if you want to dream," he said. "We put our best foot forward today. If we don't get selected, it's not because we didn't try."

The site is owned by Tampa Bay Downs, which wants it developed as an entertainment district, Bevis said. Oldsmar worked with Semsch and his firm FSA Architecture/Construction to produce the conceptual plans unveiled Thursday.

They envision a district where fans could drink and dine before and after games. There would be a cinema, restaurants, bars and a driving range similar to Top Golf in Brandon. A CSX train line that runs close to the site could potentially become a passenger train service.

Located about 16 miles from downtown Tampa, the site is within a reasonable drive of St. Petersburg and Tampa, Bevis said.

About 1.1 million people live within a 30-minute drive of the site and have an average household income of $67,000, a city analysis shows.

And while Oldsmar's population is small, it is an employment center with workers at companies like Nielsen and MicroLumen boosting its daytime population to more than 60,000, Bevis said.

The Rays played no part in the development of Oldsmar's design — which Semsch's firm did for free — but did send Rick Nafe, vice president of operations, to observe the city make its pitch.

Nafe described it as "impressive."

"It will be one of the sites we look at as we go through our due diligence," he said.

The idea of a Rays stadium in Oldsmar drew mixed reactions.

Monty Kosloski, who owns Friend's Plumbing in the city, said Oldsmar is growing but isn't yet at the size to support a baseball franchise.

"I don't know we have the accommodations such as hotels and bars for it," he said.

But Bryan Abernathy, the owner of Tampa Shave Co. Barber Shop, applauded Bevis for thinking big.

"Why not?" he said. "We're right in the middle. It would bring more business."

Still, don't mention Oldsmar and ballpark in the same sentence to Rays fan Nathan Snyder, who lives in St. Petersburg.

"I've lived here in the bay area my whole life,'' he said. "Never have I been to Oldsmar. I couldn't even tell you how to get there."

The Rays have finished last in MLB average attendance for the past five years. After years of wrangling with the city of St. Petersburg, the team was granted permission to explore stadium sites in December.

Since then, team officials have met with business and elected leaders in Tampa and with officials from Baseball Forever, a campaign started by St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman to keep the Rays at the Tropicana Field site in St. Petersburg. Pinellas County officials have identified 17 potential sites, including seven in St. Petersburg.

"Everyone is just following the process," said Rick Mussett, Baseball Forever's coordinator. "The Rays are the ones who will determine where the best sites are."

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

Comments

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, please go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Wed., Dec. 13, midday:53 738 7036e_SRit10321Wed., Dec. 13, evening:57 775 2681e_SRit55890LottoWed., Dec....
Updated: 1 hour ago

Winter meetings journal: Rays trade for money to sign top international free agent

LAKE BUENA VISTA — While most of the business conducted at the meetings impacts the big-league team one way or another, the Rays are working to finalize a move they hope pays off big sometime in the 2020s.In trading Wednesday to acquire $1 million in...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Market starting to set itself as Rays’ trade talks intensify

Market starting to set itself as Rays’ trade talks intensify

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Alex Colome claimed he was just showing good social media manners Tuesday night in following four Cardinals-related Instagram accounts since they were saying nice things about him.In doing so, whether for that reason or another mor...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Senate race motivated Alabama’s white, black evangelical voters in different ways

Senate race motivated Alabama’s white, black evangelical voters in different ways

Nationally, the word "evangelical" has become in recent years nearly synonymous with "conservative Republican" and Alabama is one of the most evangelical states in the country. But in Alabama, there is a difference: black Christians.While in many par...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Gators crash volleyball power party, play national semifinal Thursday

Gators crash volleyball power party, play national semifinal Thursday

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s difficult to call a volleyball program that has been to the Final Four eight times an underdog, especially the way Florida rallied to beat Southern California and punch its latest ticket. Yet of the four schools descending on ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

High school scoreboard for Dec. 13

Wednesday’s scoreboardGirls soccerCountryside 3, St. Petersburg 1Girls basketballPalm Harbor U. 42, Largo 25
Updated: 2 hours ago
Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Lt. Gov. Tina Smith on Wednesday to fill fellow Democrat Al Franken’s Senate seat until a special election in November, setting up his longtime and trusted adviser for a potentially bruising 2018...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Florida Toys for Tots charity raffles off AR-15 rifle. Gun debate ensues.

Florida Toys for Tots charity raffles off AR-15 rifle. Gun debate ensues.

SPRING HILL — Hernando County Commission Vice Chairman Steve Champion wanted to do something to help raise money for the annual Toys for Tots drive. So he donated the grand prize for the Nov. 18 raffle:It was an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.That led to ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Thefts from cell towers interrupted service, deputies say

Thefts from cell towers interrupted service, deputies say

Lost cell signal recently? The culprit could be a 40-year-old Ruskin man who deputies said stole thousands of dollars worth of the equipment that powers cell towers. The theft interrupted cell tower signals on at least two occasions, deputies said, i...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Foot washes ashore in Canada, again; Abbas wants U.S. out as Mideast mediator; 12 sentenced to life for gang-raping kids; more in world news

Foot washes ashore in Canada, again; Abbas wants U.S. out as Mideast mediator; 12 sentenced to life for gang-raping kids; more in world news

CanadaJust another foot washing ashoreAnother human foot has been found on British Columbia’s coastline, the 13th such grim discovery since 2007. Police said a man was walking on the beach in Jordan River on Vancouver Island when his dog found the fo...
Updated: 3 hours ago