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City of Tampa and Rays discussed state transportation funding

The city’s $43 million wish list for state funding was vetted by the Tampa Bay Rays, including projects to benefit the area around the former Kforce site on Ybor’s western edge.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor chats with Tampa Bay Rays Presidents Brian Auld and Matt Silverman while being lifted by a Tampa Fire Rescue ladder in October to unfurl a banner celebrating the Rays' return to the playoffs.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor chats with Tampa Bay Rays Presidents Brian Auld and Matt Silverman while being lifted by a Tampa Fire Rescue ladder in October to unfurl a banner celebrating the Rays' return to the playoffs. [ Charlie Frago ]
Published Nov. 24
Updated Nov. 24

TAMPA — A list of $43 million in state infrastructure requests prepared by the city of Tampa was shared with Tampa Bay Rays officials before being released, Mayor Jane Castor’s spokesperson has confirmed.

Tampa Mobility Department Director Vik Bhide and staff met with Rays officials a couple of times to discuss five of the projects on an 11-item list before details were released last week, Castor communications director Adam Smith said Tuesday.

The meetings were “private” and didn’t involve more than two public officials, Smith said. The Rays didn’t respond to a request for comment late Tuesday.

Mayor Castor “probably” discussed the list as well, Smith said, adding that many of the meeting’s participants have already scattered for the Thanksgiving holiday and couldn’t be reached easily.

“We talk to people just like anybody,” Smith said, when asked if there had been any public input to the city’s requests either before or after they were vetted by the Rays. The team has been publicly identified as interested in a site around the old Kforce headquarters on Palm Avenue for an open-air, 27,000-seat stadium with an estimated price tag of $700 million. “I’m not going to go into detail about what was discussed.”

Related: Rays ballpark plans focus on former Kforce site in Ybor City

The possible stadium property, at 1001 E Palm Ave., is owned by an investment group headed by real estate investor Darryl Shaw, who also is developing land to the southeast in Ybor, a 50-acre project dubbed Gas Worx.

Related: Rays possible new Ybor home met with cautious optimism

A request for any written, audio or video recordings of the meetings or if any such material existed wasn’t immediately fulfilled because of the upcoming holiday, Smith said.

The Times reported in early October that Rays officials or representatives had approached Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson for state help in infrastructure for a Tampa ballpark.

And, in April, the Rays retained a powerful Tallahassee firm, Capitol City Consulting, to lobby on their behalf.

Related: Tampa Bay Rays pitch state help for Ybor stadium plan

The five projects identified by Smith as having been on the negotiating table were:

  • 22nd Street and Selmon Expressway intersection signalization;
  • Channel District and Ybor connection corridors;
  • East Tampa and Ybor connection corridors (14th, 15th and Nuccio Parkway);
  • Tampa Heights and Ybor connection corridors;
  • Vision Zero safety improvements — Nebraska Avenue from E Cass Street to 7th Avenue.

Other projects on the list include money for the city’s wastewater conversion project to replenish the Hillsborough River and aquifer, called PURE, Sulphur Springs safe routes to school improvements, and a Tampa Bay regional bomb squad response vehicle, a vehicle that Smith said was not intended for a Rays ballpark.

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“All of the projects on that list that will affect a public stadium in Ybor City, the Rays were made aware of,” Smith said.