ST. PETERSBURG – A crowd of 32,251 filled Tropicana Field when the Rays revived their playoff hopes Monday. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor joined the crowd on Tuesday, and is looking to revive talks of a new Major League Baseball stadium in Tampa Bay.
“I really feel like we should probably maybe just start over again,” Castor said as she greeted people behind home plate at Tropicana Field on Tuesday. “Everybody just come back to the table and start over again. Finding out what the Rays want and need, and then which community can best fulfill those needs.”
In 2018, the Rays and Hillsborough County got deep into talks about building a new ballpark in Ybor City, going so far as to release renderings and a price tag for a proposed ballpark. Those talks fell apart in December 2018 due to a lack of details and progress, and St. Petersburg’s lease exemption allowing the Rays to talk to Hillsborough expired at the end of the year.
In June, the Rays announced a plan to eventually split home games between Tampa Bay and Montreal, an unprecedented concept that frustrated local fans.
“It’s very, very important to keep the Rays in Tampa Bay,” said Castor, who was seen talking to St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman before Tuesday’s game. “We’ve shown that we can support all of our sports teams, and we just need to work with the Rays to decide what the best location is for the stadium."
Castor confirmed there are not any active talks to bring a stadium and the Rays to Tampa or Hillsborough County. She said the Rays’ playoff run reminds the community of the need to work together to keep the team in Tampa Bay.
“We need to support that as a region and show the Rays we want them here," Castor said. "I just want to sit down and have those discussions with the Rays. If it’s in conjunction with St. Pete, with Pinellas, with Hillsborough, with Tampa, just bring everybody together and figure out what’s best for the region.”
Castor reiterated that Tampa would not pay for a new ballpark with taxpayer funds. Several of Major League Baseball’s newest stadiums, including Atlanta’s SunTrust Park (2017), Miami’s Marlins Park (2012) and Minneapolis’ Target Field (2010) have all been supported with local taxes.
“If a decision was made to build a stadium in Tampa, I have said from the beginning that taxpayer dollars would not be used to build a new stadium, and I stand by that,” Castor said. “There are many ways to get a stadium built.”
Castor wore a custom white Rays jersey with her name and the No. 59 to Tuesday’s game. She picked the number because she is the 59th mayor of Tampa.
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“The Tampa Bay area, we’ve come together to celebrate, and this is definitely a time of celebration” Castor said. “We are a sports community.”
The mayor even offered to help Tampa Bay on the field against the Astros. The Rays are opening Tuesday’s game with reliever Diego Castillo, and the bullpen will take over early in the game.
“If they need me somewhere in the game," said Castor, a former University of Tampa basketball player. “I’m available.”
Contact Ryan Kolakowski at email@example.com. Follow @RyanKolakowski