Advertisement
  1. News

Hooper: Time to push the envelope in effort to build Rays stadium in Ybor

The more than decade-long stadium drama that surrounds the Tampa Bay Rays entered a new phase when Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg unveiled the design of the ballpark the team wants built in Ybor City. [Courtesy of Populous Architects]
The more than decade-long stadium drama that surrounds the Tampa Bay Rays entered a new phase when Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg unveiled the design of the ballpark the team wants built in Ybor City. [Courtesy of Populous Architects]
Published Aug. 11, 2018

The Rays started employing a strategy of using relievers to start games when they sent Sergio Romo to the mound to face the Los Angeles Angels earlier this season.

Through criticism and occasional outright ridicule, they stuck with the plan. And they enter today's game after the All-Star break sporting the best team ERA in Major League Baseball since that day.

It's just another example of how the Rays have built on-field success by taking unique approaches.

Now, as the team seeks to find financing and community support for a proposed Ybor City stadium, its approach should be the same.

Legitimate issues have been raised about the proposal.

• Will the corporate community purchase enough suites and season ticket packages to provide big dollars?

• How will a ball park impact life in the area's most important historic district?

• Should we allow an $892 million effort to take precedence over more pressing needs?

• Do the Rays and its ownership group really intend to make Tampa Bay its long-term home?

The answers to these questions can be complicated, but with ingenuity, solutions can be found. None of the issues, or other concerns people have raised, have to doom the project. Last week's presentation of the stadium design should be a start, not an end.

As for corporate support, we're clearly not a market that can call upon a handful of home-run hitting Fortune 100 companies to tote the load for everyone. Yet just like the team strives to win games with pitching and defense while manufacturing runs, perhaps civic leaders can find 20 to 30 mid-size businesses to string together, producing "singles" and "doubles."

Can it come up with enough? Let's find out.

The impact on Ybor? How about a community compact, signed by all involved, that would contain protections for independent businesses, assurances that property values wouldn't skyrocket and a plan for residents who might end up displaced?

As for bigger community needs, I definitely think education and transportation rate higher, but instead of pitting the priorities against each other, could the Rays' new stadium be a catalyst for support?

Stick with me on this one.

Everyone talks about how the Bucs reaped the benefits of a sweetheart deal from the tax initiative that funded the construction of Raymond James Stadium. What you hear less about is how the Community Investment Tax has helped fund an array of projects over the years while providing important support for police and fire.

And it would have never passed without inclusion of the stadium proposal.

Such a tax initiative can't gain public approval in today's political climate, but that doesn't mean a unique approach couldn't pay dividends for the community. Consider this: Florida State University and the University of Florida gained state dollars for their football stadiums by building classrooms and offices into the structures.

Could we do the same here? What if the Rays built school district offices into its stadium, possibly allowing the district to sell its valuable downtown real estate and use the money to address its current budget deficits?

Crazy? Stupid? Impossible? Maybe. Even probably. But they said the same thing when Romo took the mound. They said the same thing when former manager Joe Maddon printed up T-shirts that said "9 equals 8" en route to the World Series.

There always will be naysayers who dismiss every idea and every project with cynicism. But the possibilities deserve to be explored along with every other out-of-the-box suggestion.

The Rays bring an intrinsic value to Tampa Bay, but the right deal could bring back tangible returns while helping the team find a new home. For now, I trust the team is sincere and not leveraging us for a move.

If it is, too bad for them. This community can survive without baseball, and after it's all said and done, we may end up rooting for the Portland Rays. But with the opportunity before us, let's play to win without losing sight of our community needs.

That's all I'm saying.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Addison Davis, the superintendent of Clay County District Schools, was chosen Tuesday as the new Hillsborough County school superintendent. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    The School Board’s vote is unanimous for Davis, who calls himself “an accelerator.”
  2. Smoke from the Levy County controlled burn travelled across three counties in order to reach Hillsborough. [VisitTampaBay.com]
    Commuters saw the smokey, hazy skies as they drove home. Strong southern winds are carrying the smoke from a prescribed fire in Levy County.
  3. In this Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, booking photo provided by the Orange County Sheriff's office is Mason Toney. Toney, 28, was charged with first-degree murder for the killing of his boss, William Knight, on Monday, according to an arrest affidavit from the Orange County Sheriff's Office. Co-workers told investigators that Toney and Knight were friends outside of work despite their political differences. (Orange County Sheriff's Office via AP) [AP]
    Mason Toney, 28, was charged with first-degree murder for the killing of William Knight on Monday, according to an arrest affidavit from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.
  4. Joseph Hernandez Hall is home to the University of Florida's chemistry department, where a faculty member recently resigned after officials discovered he failed to disclose his strong ties to China. While at UF, the faculty member also held positions at two Chinese universities, including vice president and dean. The faculty member was not named in a report obtained Tuesday from the Florida Legislature. [University of Florida]
    They also collected grant money from the U.S. government while never disclosing their outside work in China.
  5. Margaret Pruitt, today’s exercise model, is a real wonder woman.
  6. In this Feb. 14, 2018, file photo, students hold their hands in the air as they are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., after a shooter opened fire on the campus. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, File) [MIKE STOCKER  |  AP]
    But this year’s bill may provoke fewer fireworks than the bitter debates seen in the past two sessions.
  7. The four candidates for Clearwater mayor in 2020. Clockwise from the top left: Frank Hibbard, Morton Myers, Bill Jonson and Elizabeth "Sea Turtle" Drayer. [[Frank Hibbard (Courtesy of Hibbard); Morton Myers [Douglas R. Clifford | Times]; Bill Jonson [Douglas R. Clifford | Times]; Elizabeth "Sea Turtle" Drayer; (Courtesy of Drayer)]
    We might learn a great deal about a key election in Tampa Bay.
  8. Rep. Anthony Sabatini presents his bill to create school board term limits to the Florida House PreK-12 Innovation subcommittee on Jan. 21, 2020. [The Florida Channel]
    The idea would require a three-fifths vote in each chamber before it could appear on the ballot.
  9. Muhammad Abdur-Rahim points out the location of a former African American cemetery in the old Clearwater Heights neighborhood, where he grew up. Archaeologists have begun surveying the land using ground penetrating radar. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times]
    Marked graves were moved in the 1950s, records show. But unmarked graves may have been left behind.
  10. Deputies and the sheriff of Grayson County, Va., shared photos on their official Facebook from Monday's second-amendment rally in Richmond, Va. [Grayson County Sheriff's Office]
    In a viral video on Twitter, Grayson County Sheriff Richard Vaughan calls proposed legislation ‘unconstitutional.’
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement