News broke late last week that acquiring the land needed for a Tampa Bay Rays stadium near downtown Tampa is proving harder than expected. According to an article writing by Steve Contorno (Tampa Bay Times) local officials in Tampa are now exploring another option in the West Shore area.
Be not deceived, Tampa never had the funding, nor the “pitch perfect site” (but mainly the funding) for a new stadium, regardless how hard the Tampa Bay Times or 620 WDAE tried to convince you otherwise — something Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan acknowledged in the article.
Even if the pitch perfect site on the other side near downtown Tampa became apparent, Hagan is reportedly less confident than ever that the county and Rays ownership can come to an agreement on how to pay for a ballpark that would lure the team from Pinellas County.
There’s no question this has been an extremely challenging and frustrating process that in my opinion shouldn’t be this difficult of a task, Hagan said.
Some landowners in the Channel District/Ybor City region are, as of now, unimpressed by Hillsborough County’s offers to procure their property, putting into peril two sought after locations in the area. Hagan — who has a penchant for backroom deals when it comes to publicly funded stadiums — wouldn’t identify the exact location of those sites.
One of the abovementioned landowners is Darryl Shaw, chief executive officer of BluePearl Veterinary Services. He, along with other area investors, has spent millions of dollars in recent years buying property throughout Ybor City.
Shaw coincidentally (or not) has contributed an unspecified sum to Hagan for his pending reelection bid in 2018. It should be noted, Hagan once advocated “no public dollars” be spent on a Rays stadium, although his tune has changed of late.
Because the difficulty with trying to secure downtown land, the search for a new site has expanded to another undisclosed location in Tampa’s West Shore area, which does have some advantages over the Channel District/Ybor City. Pinellas County fans wouldn’t have as tedious of a drive, and it is closer to the type of corporate clients and support the Rays are seeking.
Yet while the West Shore area has some positives, broadening the hunt at this point — 22 months after St. Petersburg allowed the Rays to search for a new home away from Tropicana Field — can only be seen as a step backward for an effort many hoped would have been wrapped up by now, Contorto writes.
The window for the Rays search closes in January 2019. The Baseball Forever campaign, which is helmed by St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, made its pitch on a redeveloped Tropicana Field to the Rays in April. You can read the proposal below.
Other Pinellas County locations are thought to be in play as well.
— Deep thoughts… In the ongoing discussion of “where” a new stadium should be located, I’d argue the topic of developing land in flood prone regions should be on the docket.
Dare I say a waterfront stadium, on what amounts to be a flood plane, probably isn’t the greatest idea?
Sea level rise — and the imminent threat of sunny day flooding because of it — should be of concern to any of the parties involved. For example, two potential sites — the Channel District in Tampa and Snug Harbor in St. Pete — were/are deemed as potentially viable locations, yet both are in flood prone and/or environmentally sensitive areas. In the case of Snug Harbor, five of its 30 acres are under water.
FEMA disaster studies, as well as environmental impact studies, may spell doom for any proponents of a waterfront facility.
As desirable as a waterfront stadium might be, in this day and age of heightened awareness of climate change and sea-level rise, the views related to something like McCovey Cove are tantamount to poor city planning.
A quick internet search would find countless examples of altered public works’ plans due to a project’s proximity to the water:
In the end, perhaps the Orioles got it right some 25 years ago; Oriole Park at Camden Yards was built 6/10 of a mile from Inner Harbor in downtown Baltimore — an equivalent distance to that of the 85-acres associated with the Tropicana Field site and St. Petersburg’s waterfront.
A landlocked stadium in close proximity to the shoreline might not sound as sexy as one built directly on the waterfront, but it may be the best hope for a team like the Rays, who are desperately seeking new digs.