Friday, 16 November, 2018

Rays announce plans to move to Tampa, but need money

Pleasant Matt Pleasant Matt
Frederick Owens | 10 February, 2018, 06:34

Sternberg said at a news conference Friday the Rays will focus their new ballpark search on the east side of the bay at a 14-acre site in Ybor City, just north of Ybor Channel.

There are still a number of obstacles to the Rays moving into a new stadium.

A team of business leaders and local politicians joined Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg for Friday's announcement of the "Tampa Bay Rays 2020" group, whose main goal will be drumming up corporate backing for a project that could cost $800-million or more. The club also announced the formation of the organization Tampa Bay Rays 2020, a nonprofit which will attempt to raise public support, and ultimately money, for a stadium estimated to cost in the $700 million range.

Of St. Petersburg, where the Rays now play at Tropicana Field, Hagan said: "Ticket sales and corporate support have lagged". The spot also is well-served by highways and mass transit, and it sits across a waterfront that is fast becoming a hot neighborhood. The easy part is picking a favorite site. Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan said Thursday he hopes that can be finalized by the end of the year.

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Despite signing a 30-year lease at The Trop when they began play in 1998, the Rays got permission from St. Petersburg in early 2016 to begin searching for a new stadium site.

"The Ybor City location represents the finest opportunity for Major League Baseball to thrive in the Tampa Bay region for generations to come", he states. But it is not the first one. A previously-approved agreement with the City of St. Petersburg allows the team to canvass the Tampa Bay region for a new ballpark until January 2019.

He said Ybor City "is what makes this community authentic". The Rays are a regional asset, and it will take regional support to ensure baseball remains in Tampa Bay.

The news is particularly noteworthy because the club's current home, Tropicana Field, is widely regarded as the worst in Major League Baseball.

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