1. Blogs
  2. /
  3. Bay Buzz

Buckhorn asks for second chance for Rays ballpark site to get federal help

The mayor proposes swapping the parcel for another property around Armenia and Hillsborough Avenues already approved by the state as an economic opportunity zone.
Photo by JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times 

Rays President Brian Auld, left, talks with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn before the Tampa Bay Rays game against the Boston Red Sox Thursday, April 23, 2015 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL.
Photo by JAMES BORCHUCK | Times Rays President Brian Auld, left, talks with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn before the Tampa Bay Rays game against the Boston Red Sox Thursday, April 23, 2015 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL.
Published May 2, 2018
Updated May 3, 2018

Mayor Bob Buckhorn has asked the state to rethink its decision not to seek federal tax breaks for a parcel of land in Ybor City where the Tampa Bay Rays want to build a new stadium.

City officials insist the request to designate the property as an economic opportunity zone is tied to its unique location and not to any possible stadium deal.

"That's not the primary reason we want it included," said Christina Barker, Buckhorn's special assistant. "The fact that the Rays are looking at it shows how prime it is for economic development."

Still, the designation has figured in ongoing discussions about how to finance a new stadium.

The 415-acre parcel in Ybor City stretches northeast from the intersection of Adamo and Channelside Drives, to East 4th Avenue and East 15th Street. It takes in land the Rays have identified as their preferred site for a new stadium to replace Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

The zones are part of President Donald Trump's tax-cut legislation that reward private developers with tax breaks when they invest in low-income areas. Florida has sent Washington, D.C., a list of 427 proposed sites, culled from more than 1,200 requests made by local entities statewide.

Plan to help entice Rays to Ybor City hits snag

More than 100 of the sites proposed by the state are from the Tampa Bay area, but the Ybor City site didn't make the list. Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill last month called the omission a "minor setback" in local efforts to assemble a financial package for a Rays stadium in Ybor City.

The state Department of Economic Opportunity is the agency that analyzed the applications and recommended sites to Gov. Rick Scott. On Tuesday, the department's spokeswoman said Hillsborough County didn't make it clear the Ybor City site was at the top of its list.

"Hillsborough County did not prioritize opportunity zone census tracts upon submitting them to the state for review and recommendation," spokeswoman Tiffany Vause said in an email. "We will forward this request to the U.S . Treasury Department which is currently reviewing input from the states."

Barker said the Ybor City site is important because it connects the historic Latin District, Downtown and the growing Water Street development.

"It's something we think it would be a good tool to have in the tool box of the Rays or anyone else," Barker said. "We don't want that site to go undeveloped because it's in the discussion (as a stadium site)."

Buckhorn proposes swapping the Ybor City parcel for another property around Armenia and Hillsborough Avenues that was added to the state's list of economic opportunity zone proposals.

City and county officials agree the Ybor City site has greater economic potential and could generate as many as 9,633 jobs compared to 341 from the Armenia/Hillsborough site, according to estimates.

The city discussed its appeal to the state with county officials but didn't consult the Rays before it emailed Gov. Scott and other state officials late Tuesday, Barker said.

The Rays declined comment.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story reported the wrong size for the parcel of land pitched as an economic opportunity zone in Ybor City.


  1. Tampa Bay Rays Japanese slugger Yoshi Tsutsugo prepares to head to the batting cage during batting practice on the Rays first full-squad workout at the Charlotte Sports Park, 2300 El Jobean Rd, on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020 in Port Charlotte.
  2. Tiffany Carr, the former executive director of Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, left, at a 2004 news conference held by Gov. Jeb Bush.
  3. Carolina Hurricanes right wing Nino Niederreiter (21) and center Martin Necas (88) speak to Hurricanes emergency goalie David Ayres as he takes the ice against the Toronto Maple Leafs during second-period NHL hockey game action in Toronto, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
  4. Ana Farfan reacts to getting an influenza vaccine shot at Eastfield College in Mesquite, Texas.
  5. Sunset on the harbor in Oslo, Norway at 2:30 p.m. after the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony on Dec. 10, 2018.
  6. USF guard Laquincy Rideau drives to the basket between Houston's Nate Hinton, left, and Fabian White during a game on Jan. 26, 2020, in Houston.
  7. Tyson Fury lands a right to Deontay Wilder during their WBC heavyweight championship boxing match on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, in Las Vegas.
  8. Kentucky's Ashton Hagans, middle, is sandwiched between Florida's Andrew Nembhard (2) and Kerry Blackshear during the second half of their game Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020.
  9. Earlier today• Florida State Seminoles
    Florida State's Malik Osborne (10) reacts late in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina State in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)
  10. Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) gives up a goal to Arizona Coyotes' Derek Stepan as Lightning defenseman Luke Schenn (2) slides along the ice and Coyotes right wing Conor Garland (83) looks at the puck during the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz.
  11. There were many standout players for Tampa Catholic on Saturday, including goalkeeper Charlie Gembarowski, who set school records in shutouts (16) and wins (22) with the state semifinal victory.
  12. Jesuit, ranked No. 6 in the state and 15th nationally by MaxPreps, will play for their seventh school title next Saturday in DeLand against Pembroke Pines Charter.