This afternoon, the Tampa Bay Rays announced they have selected a new baseball stadium site in the historic neighborhood of Ybor City.
Many “Sunbelt” urban areas look and feel as though they were spawned by a corporate committee at some point in the late twentieth century: a generic landscape of malls, office parks and six-lane arterial roads.
Ybor City, however, looks and feels like, well, a real city.
A district of Tampa along the terminus of Interstate-4, this historic Cuban district, once home to cigar factories and low income housing has transformed into a vibrant Hispanic community (with some influences by various cultural social clubs), and has become the hub of nightlife for the city of Tampa.
Sternberg: “Ybor City is authentically Tampa Bay.” said the Ybor site presents vest opportunity. “This is where we want to be playing.”— Steve Contorno (@scontorno) February 9, 2018
Viva Ybor City
Founded in the 1880s by three Spanish-born cigar manufacturers, Ybor was incorporated into Tampa in 1887. The compact area still has the “bones” of its 19th century lineage: a street grid; historic cigar factory buildings; and some of the “casitas” – shot-gun shacks built to house cigar workers – of that era.
Urban renewal and the construction of several highways have not been kind to its built fabric but a sense of the place’s history can be found on its streets.
Thanks to its industrial/artisan past, Ybor has a rich history of Cuban, Spanish, Italian and German immigration.
The social clubs created by these immigrant communities, some of whose buildings still stand, offered social welfare support as well as classes and cultural activities. Labor activism, not often associated with Florida, also has deep roots in Ybor.
Today Ybor continues to offer unique flavor: best know for its nightlife, it is also home to a flock of wild chickens, as well as 0.14 acres of Cuban territory (Jose Marti Park is on land owned by the Cuban government.) The Ybor City Museum is a great repository of the area’s rich history and offer walking tours, too.
Ybor City is also home to the historic Tampa Baseball Museum, which hosted the press conference announcing the Rays intentions to move to downtown Tampa.
The vistor’s center is also a Cigar Museum, and there is a separate Streetcar Museum, which celebrates the TECO streetcars that carry people between downtown Tampa’s Channelside waterfront and the nightlife of Ybor.
What will a stadium look like and how will any neighborhood concerns be mitigated?
Ultimately many questions about the stadium – how we will get there, what impact it will have on neighbors, how it can be integrated into Ybor’s fabric even on the many days it is not in use for baseball – are design and planning questions that will be addressed as the team moves forward.
A stadium can be an asset to Ybor if it respects the area’s history, provides new public spaces and helps knit together the Ybor and Channelside areas.
When the Rays first began their explorations of a new stadium they released a website soliciting community feedback. Now it’s time for the real planning to begin. Today’s announcement means that the Rays and their public and private sector partners can start this process.