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Teco Line streetcar in Ybor City the historic district of Tampa Florida USA Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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Rays plan for stadium transportation issues in Ybor City revealed

More revelations from a recent trove of government e-mails.

As noted in yesterday’s article, Noah Pransky’s public records request to the Tampa Sports Authority yielded a few documents that help shed light on the latest thoughts on a Hillsborough County stadium location.

Yesterday we sketched out some quick numbers for stadium financing. Today we look at transportation issues.

The Rays recently hired Stantec, a large planning and engineering consultancy with a Tampa office, to complete a study of the transportation resources and deficits surrounding what had been their intended site for the part time stadium, the K-force parcel on Palm Avenue. This perspective is not surprising. Until MLB’s Executive Commission closed down the split city plan, the Rays were assuming they would be building an open-air stadium at that site; contracting for a study of transportation options was part of their normal due diligence.

Of course that open air stadium is not feasible for a fulltime team. Because, we have heard, the K-Force site is not big enough for a domed stadium the Rays must now look elsewhere. This could of course make the entire transportation study moot, but we know the Rays have focused on Ybor city before and they may well still hope to build in this centrally located district that already has good infrastructure. With that in mind we highlight some findings of that study.

The study focuses largely on developing transportation options other than driving one’s car directly to the stadium. This makes sense: if you want an urban stadium integrated into the fabric of the neighborhood you can’t surround that stadium with an ocean of parking — which means you need to consider a diversity of travel methods.

Stantec is cognizant of the limits of Tampa area transit, so they assume that under 10% of attendees will walk, bike, take transit or taxi service. The majority, instead, will park elsewhere in Ybor or downtown and either walk up to 15 minutes or take advantage of shuttles that will operate on game days. Proposed streetcar extensions, ferry services and Riverwalk extensions could increase the share of people arriving in something other than a private automobile.

The Florida Department of Transportation has plans in the works that would facilitate automobile travel into Ybor and downtown, including yet another rebuild of the notorious “malfunction junction” (where I-4 and I-275 meet), and a new I-4 exit into Ybor City, recently announced as part of a larger infrastructure improvement plan.

One interesting note in the public records packet: we see that Jane Castor has made a $10.75 million budget request to the state legislature that would be used toward extending the free TECO trolley. Currently the trolley runs from Ybor to the downtown Convention Center area, and there are already plans (and funding) to extend the line north to Tampa Heights, where new development around the Armature Works has created a growing node of housing and commercial activity. Tampa’s longer-term plans envision completing the trolley loop by creating a new segment to connect Armature Works back to Ybor City.

From Tampa’s InVision plan
City of Tampa

There is a memo in the documents from TSA lobbyist Ron Pierce identifying this $10.75 budget request as a “potential Rays project” — we assume Pierce may just be flagging it as an item that could be of interest to the Rays plans and therefore, to his TSA clients, but the dream of further extending the trolley goes far beyond any stadium plans.

Key Takeaways

Here are a couple takeaways from the Rays commissioned report:

  • An Ybor stadium could benefit from transportation investments already underway. This includes FDOT plans to add another Ybor interchange from I-4, and long-term City of Tampa plans to extend the TECO trolley from Armature Works to Ybor City.
  • The study does include some wish list items: road improvements on connector roads; a continuation of the “green spine” bike path from the downtown area; the potential launching of a Brightline connection to Orlando.
  • Mostly, however, this proposal focuses on ways to get 27,000 people to the stadium by tweaking existing infrastructure. Apps and good wayfinding systems will make it easier for people to find parking off site, with shuttle buses helping deliver people from large garages in the Channelside and downtown areas. “Mobility hubs” just beyond the stadium will accommodate taxi/ride-share pick-ups, bicycle parking and charter buses.

The Rays are back to the drawing board in many ways as they now consider a full-time stadium that will require a dome and a larger footprint.

Even though a Hillsborough stadium will likely not be built at the K-force site, as this proposal assumes, many of the recommendations here seem germane to any Ybor City/downtown site. These will all depend on adapting existing road and parking infrastructure as well as possible while facilitating the use of transit and encouraging walking and biking to allow a stadium to fit in a more urbanized environment.

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