Rays announce Ybor City as favored new stadium locale

By Dave Jordan, Trevor Pettiford, and Digital Media Team, Spectrum News
Last Updated: Friday, February 09, 2018, 6:30 PM EST
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The Tampa Bay Rays and city and business leaders in Tampa are taking baseball -- specifically a new stadium. 

The team announced Friday that a previously identified plot of land in Ybor City is the preferred destination to build a baseball stadium. 

The 14-acre location is located off Channelside Drive and bordered by Adamo Drive, 15th Street and 4th Avenue. The land was secured by a group of county business leaders who formed a nonprofit just to obtain the property. On Friday, the new website TampaBayRays2020.com was announced.

Stuart Sternberg, the team's principal owner, said a new ballpark would help write the next chapter of Ybor City's history.

"It represents the finest opportunity for Major League Baseball to thrive in this region for generations to come," he said.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan said he and others have spent years trying to bring the Rays to Ybor City.

"There is no doubt in my mind that this community supports a new ballpark in Tampa," he said. Of St. Petersburg, where the Rays currently play at Tropicana Field, Hagan said: "Ticket sales and corporate support have lagged. I am confident that will not be the case in Tampa."

The move comes after years of back-and-forth between the team and St. Petersburg city officials over the right to look for a stadium site outside of the city and Pinellas County. The Rays have a contract to play at Tropicana Field through 2027.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn brought up baseball names such as Wade Boggs, who finished his Hall of Fame career with the Rays, and Lou Pinella and Tony La Russa as he discussed the city's history with baseball.

He said Ybor City "is what makes this community authentic. It is our heart, our soul. It is who we are."

Meanwhile, across the bay in St. Petersburg, Mayor Rick Kriseman made it clear he sees a bright future for the Tropicana Field site, with or without the Rays.

"If [the Rays] do decide to move across the bay, we have 86 acres we're going to be redeveloping," Kriseman said. "From hotels with conference center space to office complexes to university presence with research facilities to affordable and attainable workforce housing to commercial and retail establishments, all of that can happen on that site."

A deal between the Rays and the City of St. Petersburg agreed upon last year allowed the team to search for a new ballpark location through January 2019. 

Members of the business community were also at the meeting, including Chuck Sykes, CEO, Sykes Enterprises and Ron Christaldi, Partner, Shumaker, Loop and Kendrick.