Hillsborough County leaders announced their proposed site for a stadium, officially entering them in the sweepstakes to build the next home of the Tampa Bay Rays. Tampa formally joins St. Petersburg, which made its official stadium proposal back in April.
WFLA Channel 8 broke the news, leaking a proposed site that has not yet been finalized. However, the team’s response to the news (seen below) indicates this location — on the edge of Ybor City, bordered by 15th Street and Channelside Drive to the east and west and Fourth Avenue and Adamo Drive to the north and south — is all but final.
Brian Auld, President of Baseball Operations for the Tampa Bay Rays, also tempered the announcement in the team’s official statement, suggesting that while progress has been made, we are still a long way out from a tenable resolution.
Point man on the project Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan said the community has reached an agreement with land owners to gain site control of about 14 acres, although he wasn’t nearly as forthcoming with the cost of the land acquisition.
Per Janelle Irwin (Tampa Bay Business Journal) the option agreements with landowners, including Hillsborough County developer and BluePearl Veterinary Partners CEO and founder Darryl Shaw, are good for nine months with a six-month extension option. While that land has been secured, other sites could still be considered but Hagan said that’s not likely.
The Rays have been in lock step every step of the way in our search, Hagan said of his work with Rays leadership. We initially presented 15 sites to (the Rays) and after thorough discussions it became clear that the Ybor site was both the team’s and our preferred site.
As Noah Pransky (Shadow of the Stadium Blog, WTSP TV) noted, Hagan helped form a nonprofit to assist Hillsborough County in avoiding Florida’s public records law on the proposed stadium site — a questionable move by a public official who promised transparency on a stadium deal. Hagan previously vowed that there wouldn’t be any other “sweetheart” deals like the $168-Million allocated by Hillsborough county and given to the Buccaneers.
To put it another way, this is merely Hillsborough County — by way of Hagan — saying what it thinks is its best for the Rays. Nevertheless, what still isn’t clear is how all the parties involved intend to fund the project, which could cost upwards of $600-Million.
For his part Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn sarcastically reminded everyone that funding for a new stadium presents the biggest hurdle for Hagan and company.
Mayor Buckhorn with the 🖕 – “I look forward to hearing how the county plans to pay for this.” https://t.co/J8IqAaZ12E
— Shadow of Stadium (@StadiumShadow) October 25, 2017
The Rays must now weigh all the proposed stadium entries against one another, setting the table for a tug-of-war between Pinellas — St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman wants to build a new ballpark on a redeveloped Tropicana Field site, although other options are said to be in play — and Hillsborough counties.
— On the subject of yesterday’s breaking news, fellow Baseball Forever campaign member, Brooks Wallington, articulated a few points that otherwise got lost in the shuffle:
— …Deep thoughts from Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who didn’t seem too enthused by the announcement, via the Tampa Bay Times:
Mayor Buckhorn didn’t know the proposal would be announced Tuesday, but he told 970 WFLA radio Wednesday morning that didn’t bother him. “Let me say for the record, the county does not speak for the city in any way, shape or form: never has never will,” Buckhorn said. “But I’m excited about the potential. I think the location makes a lot of sense. … It gives the Rays what they are looking for in terms of an urban location. It allows for additional development around the stadium.” Buckhorn also said, “I’m not sure the Rays were neck-deep in that announcement either, and I’m not sure the timing of it (on the afternoon before the first game of the World Series) inured to their benefit, but it is what it is.” Buckhorn, who just finished a tough battle with the City Council to raise Tampa’s property tax rate for the first time in 29 years, said there would be little city money for a new ballpark. “There’s not going to be a direct contribution from the city to this stadium as long as I’m the mayor, because we just don’t have it,” he said.