The Rays need a new stadium. The Rays know this, Major League Baseball knows this, and the government around Tampa knows this. But stadiums don't appear out of midair; they're the result of a drawn-out, multi-step process. On Tuesday, the first step of that process was reached when Hillsborough County (Fla.) commissioner Ken Hagan announced that a site near downtown Tampa has been acquired, and the intention is to build the Rays a new stadium there.
Officials from Hillsborough County, which encompasses Tampa and nearby areas, reached a deal to gain control of roughly 14 acres in the Ybor City-Channel District area near downtown Tampa. The Rays' current home stadium is Tropicana Field, which opened its doors in 1990 and is located in St. Petersburg, roughly 23 miles from the newly proposed site.
“I’m thrilled about the possibilities that exist about this location,” Hagan said. “The site has unlimited potential not only for a state of the art ballpark, but it will also catalyze significant economic development.”
A rendering of a potential stadium at the site shows a ballpark squeezed between Channelside Drive on the west and North 15th Street on the east, leaving space for virtually no parking or surrounding attractions.
Ybor City is more accessible by public transit than Tropicana Field is, a fact that has made the neighborhood a preferred site for a ball club that has ranked worst or near-worst in attendance in recent years.
While site selection is a crucial step toward building a stadium, the Rays' quest for a new home is far from complete. The next and perhaps most difficult step is finding funding for a stadium that is projected to cost roughly $600 million.
Tampa Bay isn't the only baseball club looking for a new home; a preferred site for a new stadium aimed at keeping the Athletics in Oakland was announced in September.