Advertisement
  1. Hillsborough

Ken Hagan: Ybor City ballpark for Rays may still make sense even if community has to share team with Montreal.

The plan to build a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark in Ybor City didn’t materialize. This is a rendering of a proposed design. [Courtesy of Populous Architects]
Published Aug. 7

TAMPA — Hillsborough County should still work on bringing the Tampa Bay Rays across the Bay even if the team makes good on its idea to split future seasons with Montreal, said Ken Hagan, the veteran county commissioner who has worked for more than a decade to bring the team to Tampa.

Hagan said Wednesday that the county is still exploring the creation of an entertainment district in Ybor City, a venture that could include a small multi-use sports stadium as a potential future home for the Rays.

The Republican commissioner made the announcement during a briefing to other commissioners Wednesday, the first since principal owner Stu Sternberg shocked local leaders in June by saying his team wants to explore playing half of the season every year in Montreal.

"As a fan, I don't like the split-season concept. However, if it provides an opportunity for Tampa to get back at the table with the team, to negotiate with the Rays, then it's something we should consider," Hagan said. "We need to continue to position ourselves, get ourselves in the best possible position, when we have an opportunity to speak with the team."

Creating an entertainment district would need buy-in from local landowners to support setting up a Community Development District. It would raise revenue through property taxes and a tax on food, drink and sports tickets.

Hagan said a new stadium wouldn't necessarily be just for the Rays. It could be used by the Tampa Bay Rowdies, the division II soccer franchise owned by the Rays. It could even be a new spring training home for the baseball team.

He stressed that it would not require any new taxes but could be built through a public-private partnership.

The proposed district is close to two Community Redevelopment Areas, a state designation that allows new property taxes to be spent on infrastructure like roads, sewers and other neighborhood improvements.

And the district also includes an opportunity zone, a federal designation that allows private developers to delay tax payments on profits from the sale of real estate and other investments if they invest in projects there.

It's still unclear how any potential deal can progress since the Rays' contract to play at Tropicana Field through 2027 forbids the team from negotiating to play anywhere else.

St. Petersburg officials did give the team a three-year window in 2016 to explore other Tampa Bay sites. The result was a proposal for a $890 million ballpark in Ybor City. But the team and Hillsborough officials could not agree on a financing plan and the Rays window to look elsewhere expired in December.

Irwin Raij, the New York City sports business attorney who was hired by the county to work on a stadium deal, said he has since asked St. Petersburg on two occasions for permission to talk with the Rays. The city rebuffed both requests, he said.

Raij, who is now working on behalf of the Tampa Sports Authority, said he has met with landowners of the Ybor City site and there is interest in an entertainment district.

"I think there is a path there if that's a path we want to go down," he said.

Sternberg and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman met on Monday, their second face-to-face since the team floated the Montreal concept. Neither the team nor the mayor's office provided any details on what was discussed.

Kriseman has previously stated that the city will not let the Rays speak to Montreal for free.

Staff writer John Romano contributed to this report.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    One of the messages included a picture of a pellet gun, Tampa police said.
  2. The lobby bar at the Current Hotel on Rocky Point in Tampa serves eclectic cocktails and locally brewed coffee. SARA DINATALE  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Take a look inside Tampa Bay’s newest boutique hotel.
  3. A pauper's cemetery was established at the northeast corner of property now occupied by King High School in Tampa, location of the school gymnasium (tall building at top left) and the main parking lot. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Conflicting versions emerge of where Ridgewood Cemetery was located. One thing is certain: It was ignored or forgotten.
  4. The Florida Bar wants the state’s highest court to immediately suspend the law license of Tampa attorney Jose Angel Toledo, ex-husband of state Rep. Jackie Toledo. FACEBOOK PAGE  |  Su Abogado Hispano
    José Angel Toledo, ex-husband of state Rep. Jackie Toledo, abandoned his law practice, according to the petition from the Florida Bar.
  5. Amber Perera looks out at the courtroom audience during a court hearing Friday. A judge sentenced her to 50 years on Tuesday. , SCOTT KEELER  |  Times
    A judge noted that Amber Perera, 31, drove away until her tire fell off: “You continued to avoid any responsibility for this crime.”
  6. The Florida Supreme Court building in Tallahassee. SCOTT KEELER  |  Times
    The Tampa Bay Partnership, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and Tampa-Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. filed a brief in the Florida Supreme Court.
  7. Melvin Morris is seen in this undated photo by Nick Del Calzo. NICK DEL CALZO  |  Photo by
    Some were born in Florida. Others joined up here. All received the nation’s highest award for valor in action against an enemy force.
  8. Medal of Honor recipients Retired Army Maj. Drew Dix, left, and Ret. Army Sgt. Maj. Gary Littrell pose for a portrait before the start of the Medal of Honor Convention this week at the Tampa Marriott Water Street in Tampa, OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Forty-six of the 70 living recipients are expected to attend. The week-long celebration kicks off Tuesday
  9. Police have found that it's not unusual for one gun owner to have dozens of weapons. This cache of guns, owned by one man, is stored in the evidence room at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    'Red flag’ law aims to keep people with violent instincts, mental disorders from accessing weapons.
  10. Former WTSP-Ch. 10 news anchor Reginald Roundtree, shown here with his wife Tree, filed a lawsuit Friday against his former employer alleging he was fired because of age discrimination and retaliation. [Times file] WTSP  |  FACEBOOK
    The suit comes after a federal agency took no action on age discrimination complaints he had filed.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement