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Tampa Bay Times: Ybor City, Channelside likely Hillsborough stadium sites

Much work remains to be done, however, before plans can move ahead

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Today’s Tampa Bay Times reported on latest developments in the Rays efforts to find a site, either in Hillsborough County or elsewhere in Pinellas, for a new baseball stadium. Although Pinellas County locations are still very much in play, most speculation on a future site has focused on Hillsborough County, which is the primary subject of this article.

The TL;DR version: Nothing new to see here! There is of yet no official announcement of a selected site or financing plan. However, the Times does offer a few interesting observations, based on their review of public documents and the statements of public officials.

  • Thanks to Florida’s Sunshine laws, all County financial documents are available for public viewing, as are a variety of meeting records. As a result, the Times knows that the law firm retained by Hillsborough County to address potential stadium development issues did a great deal of work earlier in 2017 but much less lately. This could mean that the momentum toward stadium development has slowed, or that many questions have already been answered, even if decisions have not been made public.
  • Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, who has acted as the primary point of contact for the Rays on this issue, expresses frustration that the Rays have not been more aggressive in securing sites. According to owner Stuart Sternberg, several of the Rays’ preferred sites were already unavailable as of early 2017; Hagan seems to believe that quicker action on the part of the team would have kept more options open.
  • Hagan also notes that the development of Suntrust Park in Cobb County, the new home of the Braves, is viewed as a great model to emulate. Some, however, would see this as more of a cautionary tale than a case of best practices. You can look here for an analysis by typically critical Neil deMause; here for an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article on unresolved stadium-related transportation problems in Cobb County (and who will pay for them). Reviews of the stadium itself have been mixed. The stadium does feature a great deal of auxiliary development, which figures in its urban design impact as well as its financing, which could be important for the Rays.
  • The focus of the site search, according to Hagan, appears to have narrowed to sites in the Channelside and Ybor City areas, with the western gateway to Ybor, around Nuccio Parkway, getting special mention. Any of these choices would involve some delicate negotiation with a range of public and private landowners.
  • You can see DRB’s analysis of potential Channelside sites here, and of a likely Ybor City site here. You can also read more about the issues afflicting Tampa Park Apartments, which would likely need to be razed to make way for an Ybor stadium, here.