It was bound to happen. And on the heels of the announcement that the Pinellas County Commission would like to meet with the Rays, it did happen. St. Petersburg-based Echelon has come forward with plans for a new stadium in the Gateway area of St. Petersburg,
somewhere near Ulmerton Road and Roosevelt. Echelon, under the name Cityscape LLC, has money to contribute and a full set of plans drawn up, ready to show the region. According to My Fox Tampa Bay, they’ve also “Requested a substantial block of time to present the city with its research
that includes stadium design, demographics and traffic analysis. They say it’s all completed and ready to share.”
I’ve long thought this area to be the best spot (yes kiddies, even over downtown Tampa) for a new Rays facility. And if a private company is willing to put their money where their mouth is, all the better. What’s so special about the Carrilon/Gateway area anyway? Let’s go through the list of some positives:
- Traffic infrastructure is already in place. Surrounded by major traffic arteries such as Interstate 275, Ulmerton Road, Gandy Blvd, and the proximity two of the three major bridges that go to and from Pinellas County, a stadium built in this spot would be one that is easy to get to for Rays fans in the Tampa Bay region at large.
- An eventual light rail hub could also be built in Carillon bringing even more fans into the area.
- The Rays have estimated needing 12,000 parking spaces to accommodate a sellout, and Carillon currently has 18,000 existing parking spaces.
- The plot(s) of land plot of land is presumably ready for development.
- Any site in the Gatway/Carrilon area are close to urban centers both in north St. Petersburg and other surrounding areas.
- A new facility closely seated to environmentally sensitive areas could give the Rays an opportunity to be the premier green organization in all of baseball. It could also open the door for those involved in the building of a new stadium to receive green grant money, or other funds, which would be especially important considering the amount of infrastructure work, development, etc that would be done in that area.
- TIF funds may be available to offset the costs of infrastructure improvements and the construction of the.
It also bears mentioning that it’s been projected by 2013, there will be a population of 1,645,107 people (a number greater than the 2035 projected population of the area surrounding the Trop) that live within a 30 minute drive of the Gateway/Carillon area. Those numbers jump to 2,186,612 by 2035. There are approximately 182,304 households with an income greater than $75,000. Approximately $2.21 billion dollars are spent on entertainment yearly. Roughly 275,068 fans within a 30 minute driving radius of a proposed site in the Gateway/Carillon area attended Rays games in the last 12 months, as opposed to 247,237 fans within a 30 minute driving radius of the Downtown Tampa area attended Rays games in the last 12 months. There are also approximately. Finally, there are approximately 16,274 firms with more than 10 employees within a thirty minute driving radius of the Gateway/Carillon area vs. 16,100 firms with more than 10 employees within a thirty minute driving radius of the Downtown Tampa area.
Described by Pinellas County Commissioner in the Tampa Bay Times, “One rendering showed a view from home plate to the east, out past second base to a glass wall that afforded views of Tampa Bay and high-rise buildings in Tampa’s Westshore area. The designs showed an enclosed stadium that can be air conditioned, with options for both a solid roof and a retractable one, Welch said. The project would be part of a broader mixed-use development, including one wall that might lead to a hotel or retail or other commercial space.
The Rays have responded, and they’re sticking to their guns. “Over the years, we’ve heard and read about many developers who would like to include a baseball stadium in their plans,” Kalt said. “Our position remains the same – we will consider any potential ballpark site in Tampa Bay, but only as part of a process that considers every ballpark site in Tampa Bay.” One could say that the Rays organization is tentatively non committal because shuffling the stadium around inside Pinellas isn’t going to cut it, and a new stadium in Pinellas is not going to solve the main issue here. However, I’d imagine that if a development firm in Hillsborough came through with plans of their own, the Rays organization would have the same stance. They’re not going to fawn over any plans until they’ve had an opportunity to weigh out the pros and cons. Too, it makes sense to maintain a tight lip on things this early in the game. Still, progress in this stalemate seems like a godsend. And I, for one, cannot wait to see the mock up of this facility.