Rays finally have a possible site in Hillsborough

by Gary Shelton on October 25, 2017 · 0 comments

in general


The Rays are looking for an alternative to the Trop./CARMEN MANDATO

Wednesday, 3 a.m.

To get from here to there, it would take the longest home run in the history of the game.

It would have to travel over the Bay, over Amalie Arena and over Tampa. It would have to travel over Gandy, over Kojak's and over most of the other sites proposed for the Tampa Bay Rays.

There, 25 miles later, you might find that moveable concept called “home.”

The Rays, after months of searching, have found their site if they choose to go to Tampa. It's in the Channel District-Ybor City area bordered by 15th Street and Channelside Drive to the east and west and Fourth Avenue and Adamo Drive to the north and south.

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There, the Rays hope, they can find the financial benefits that are missing in its Tropicana location through sponsorship and increased ticket sales. The Rays have been in the bottom three in the league in attendance for seven straight years.

How much the team would draw in Ybor is a subject for conversation. However, it is nearer the center of the population center. Any increase in fans would be welcome.

The Rays aren't ready to say that Ybor is their destination, however. They continue to weigh that site against those in Pinellas County.

"This is another important step in the site selection process, and we are grateful for the time and attention that went into making it a possibility," Tampa Bay Rays President Brian Auld said in the statement. "We look forward to getting to work evaluating this option, along with those in Pinellas County including the Tropicana Field site, as a potential future home for Rays Baseball in Tampa Bay for generations to come."

Of course, agreeing to a site isn't the same thing as approving a deal, and it would take hundreds of millions of dollars to get the Rays to move.

"I’m thrilled about the possibilities that exist about this location,” Hillsborough commissioner Ken Hagan said. “The site has unlimited potential not only for a state of the art ballpark, but it will also catalyze significant economic development.”

The financing for a stadium could come from a hotel bed tax.

That agreement is a ways off, of course. But after two years of search, the Rays have a leader for their clubhouse. There is a lot of negotiation to come, but soon enough, everyone involved will know if the stadium is a real possibility. And whether a new stadium will lead to a richer team and a larger payroll.

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