The long and winding road to Tampa Bay’s elusive Rays stadium

It has been more than 14 years since the Rays proposed the first of three failed stadium projects around Tampa Bay.
The Rays have been trying to replace Tropicana Field since Wander Franco was kindergarten-age. Their latest plan, a sister-city concept with Montreal, was rejected by MLB this week.
The Rays have been trying to replace Tropicana Field since Wander Franco was kindergarten-age. Their latest plan, a sister-city concept with Montreal, was rejected by MLB this week. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Jan. 20, 2022|Updated Jan. 21, 2022

A timeline of how we arrived at Thursday’s news that the Rays won’t be sharing a season with Montreal, and the stadium talks left in the dust along the way:

October 2005: Stuart Sternberg, who bought into the franchise in 2004, takes over as the Rays’ point person. He addresses the stadium issue in his first days on the job, and says he envisions a day when the team and the community partner to build a new stadium. “Even if we pay for the whole thing, it will be cooperative,” he said. “But I don’t anticipate us having the ability to ever pay for an entire stadium.”

November 2007: Rays announce plans to pursue a 34,000-seat, $450 million stadium on the site of Al Lang Stadium near St. Petersburg’s waterfront. The stadium will have a sail-like covering instead of a fixed roof, and will be financed by redevelopment revenues from the Tropicana Field site.

June 2008: The team decides not to pursue a public referendum, which would be required for any type of construction on the city’s waterfront. The Al Lang Stadium proposal is dead.

Related: Tampa Bay is rid of the in-laws in Montreal, but has a stadium mess at home

January 2016: At the urging of Mayor Rick Kriseman, the Rays get permission from the St. Petersburg City Council to explore stadium sites in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

February 2018: The Rays, along with Tampa and Hillsborough County officials, announce Ybor City as the preferred site for a new stadium.

July 2018: The team reveals design and specific plans for an Ybor City stadium with a fixed, translucent roof that would seat 30,000 and carry a price tag of about $900 million.

December 2018: While at the winter meetings in Las Vegas, the Rays and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred say financing for the Ybor City stadium is insufficient and announce that the plan is no longer viable.

Related: In Montreal, frustration and concern for the Rays’ future

June 2019: The Rays and Seagram heir Stephen Bronfman unveil their sister-city plan in dual press conferences in St. Petersburg and Montreal. The team would seek cheaper, boutique-style stadiums in each city, with the Rays staying in Tampa Bay for spring training and the first two months of the regular season before moving to Montreal. A week later, MLB’s executive council gave the Rays permission to explore the plan.

February 2020: Sternberg meets with new Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan to discuss a scaled-down stadium plan for the sister city project near downtown Tampa.

January 2021: Kriseman essentially shuts down negotiations for a split-city stadium plan in St. Petersburg. He says the Rays want a bigger cut of the revenue of the Tropicana Field redevelopment than they are entitled, and too much control over what gets built adjacent to a proposed stadium.

Related: Everything you need to know about Rays, Montreal and stadiums

October 2021: The former Kforce building site near Hillsborough Community College appears to be the team’s top choice for a 27,000-seat stadium without a roof that could double as a spring training home for the Rays.

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December 2021: Castor says she is putting the finishing touches on a financing plan for the Ybor City stadium. The Rays had committed to spending half of the proposed $700 million price tag for the smaller facility.

January 2022: MLB’s executive council rejects the team’s request to begin pursuing the sister-city plan in earnest. Sternberg and Bronfman again hold dual news conferences, this time saying the shared team plan is dead.

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