ST. PETERSBURG — You know that great idea you've always had for a ballpark? The Tampa Bay Rays want to hear it.
The team on Monday launched ballparkreimagined.com where fans can submit ideas about what they see as must-haves in a new ballpark.
The interactive site features surveys and a video that touts the "spirit and energy of Tampa Bay," which the team says should be reflected in a new stadium.
The website will remain up throughout the life of the stadium project, which Rays senior vice president of strategy and development Melanie Lenz said will likely move into a design and site selection phase soon after the end of the Rays regular season.
"This is our way to communicate with the fans and with the stakeholders not just to push information out but to bring information in," Lenz said. "It will be a living, dynamic website."
The team's four vision principles guide the website: Providing a baseball experience like no other; building a defining icon for the region; creating a smart, sustainable and right-sized facility; and looking beyond baseball to activate the site year-round.
Besides submitting their name and contact information, fans can suggest other ideas under "Community Collaboration."
The Rays say they "are listening" and ask fans to pick up to three of eight "collective" ideas: year-round, intimate, organic, breathtaking, welcoming, cutting edge, icon and seamless.
The approach is in keeping with the team's stated approach of throwing out all traditional notions of building a new ballpark. Rays officials say they want a stadium that the community can use outside of game day and want the community to suggest some of those uses.
After years of complaints about poor crowds at the outdated Trop, the Rays got permission from St. Petersburg to look for new stadium sites on both sides of Tampa Bay in December.
Still, Mayor Rick Kriseman says the area around Tropicana Field is the best place to build a new stadium. He started the Baseball Forever campaign to keep the team in town.
The price tag of a new stadium is a frequent topic of discussion as the team explores its options. A sizeable portion of the stadium is expected to be funded through tax dollars.
"One of our main objectives is to build a right-sized facility for our region," the website says. "That means we are not going to build the next most expensive ballpark. Instead, we are examining each aspect of the ballpark to understand how it can create the most return on investment. Once we know what we are going to build, only then can we determine how it will be funded."
The team also says the community has a stake in the process."
"This is not just about baseball," the website says. "This is about creating a community asset that will serve as a gathering point for our community and catalyst for development and revitalization. While there is a clear set of criteria for site selection, there is also an opportunity to re-energize a community, enhance the quality of life and have a positive economic impact."
In recent weeks, Pinellas County leaders released a list of 17 possible locations for a new baseball stadium to keep the team from fleeing to Hillsborough County. One of the sites that the Rays have expressed interest in is the 39-acre Snug Harbor site, a waterfront parcel just off Gandy Boulevard in St. Petersburg.
"We love the new Rays' website, and hope everyone visits it to share their input," said City of St. Petersburg spokesman Ben Kirby.
Pinellas officials soon hope to meet with team leaders to discuss the sites. Hillsborough County has already released its list of possible locations.
Contact Mark Puente at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2996. Follow @MarkPuente