Hillsborough County officials have been very discrete about their efforts to find a site for baseball on this side of the Bay. That all changed last week with County Commissioner Ken Hagan’s announcement that a site had been chosen, with 14 acres of land optioned for potential stadium development.
Now the Tampa Bay Times has a list of all eight sites the county reviewed and shared with the Rays, and each has an image of an existing ballpark photoshopped in so that it is clear how a stadium could be positioned. (In the article, reporter Steve Contorno does not reveal how he got this information, so it’s not clear whether County officials decided to share it or it became available in some other way).
Only one of the eight sites will be a complete surprise to those who have followed this issue. Apparently a site near the intersection of Dale Mabry Highway and I-275 was considered; this location has never been discussed in published reports. This would have put the stadium near Legends Field and Raymond James stadium, creating a kind of sports complex region.
The Tampa Greyhound Track in Sulphur Springs is another on this list that has not received much attention. Opened in 1933, the track has not featured live races for some time, but I believe it is still open for video feeds of races and betting. To the best of our knowledge, the only person who has ever mentioned this site was Commissioner Victor Crist, in whose district it sits.
Tampa Heights, where a new apartment building, the Pearl, has begun leasing and a gourmet food court should open soon, was reportedly Stu Sternberg’s preferred site.
The proposed site is presumably the only one that meets the Rays criteria of an urban district with maximum accessibility, and also features a willing seller. It’s worth noting that the inability to get permission to search outside St. Petersburg until early 2016 has had a big impact on potential sites. For example, the coveted Tampa Heights site probably could have been acquired for minimal costs before 2013, when the current owner bought it. The previous owners had gone into default after their redevelopment plans were scuttled during the Great Recession.