Rays want to build new ballpark in Tampa

Sternberg: 'We're eager to work cooperatively to make this vision come to life'

February 9th, 2018

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Rays are all in for building a new ballpark in Tampa, at a location in historic Ybor City.

"The Ybor site was chosen through a collaborative, cooperative process with Tampa and Hillsborough County leadership," said Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg on Friday at a news conference at the Tampa Baseball Museum in Ybor City. "It represents the finest opportunity for Major League Baseball to thrive in this region for generations to come.

"This is where we want to be playing baseball, and the possibilities are very, very exciting to me and my organization, and to Major League Baseball, and to all of our fans."

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan made a surprise announcement in October about the availability of a 14-acre site near the Port of Tampa that would be suitable for building the ballpark.

"Baseball in Tampa has a rich history dating back more than 125 years," Hagan said. "It's time to build a state-of-the-art ballpark that will transform our county."

The site is bounded by 4th Avenue on the north, Adamo Drive on the south, Channelside Drive on the west and 15th Street on the east.

"We're eager to work cooperatively to make this vision come to life," Sternberg said. "Ybor City is authentically Tampa Bay. It is a place with soul, and grit, with a rich, rich baseball history as well. We could not be more excited about playing a role in writing the next chapter in Ybor's storied history by together building a next generation ballpark that integrates this vibrant and growing community."

Friday's announcement should be viewed as a critical first step. How the stadium gets paid for, when such a project might get completed and the actual design for the stadium are yet to be determined.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn called the project a "work in progress."

"We're going to have to be creative," Buckhorn said. "We're going to have to sharpen our pencils on both sides of this equation. And we're going to have to find multiple ways to get to whatever that [financial] number is [to get the stadium built]."

When asked how much money the Rays will be willing to offer, Sternberg said, "We anticipate and expect to be putting up a good amount of money toward this project.

"Going forward, we're going to work on this in the coming months and years to figure out just what that [amount] is," said Sternberg, who allowed that the Rays anticipate that a new stadium would generate more revenues, and, thus, allow the team to have a steeper payroll that could make them more competitive.

Gaining corporate support will play an integral part in the equation. In that vein, a new organization, Tampa Bay Rays 2020, was introduced on Friday.

"They've created an organization that will play an integral role in identifying and securing the corporate sponsorships and community support necessary for a Rays ballpark," Hagan said. "... This is a critically important element, because in St. Pete, ticket sales and corporate support have lacked. I'm confident that will not be the case in Tampa."

The organization will be headed by local businessmen Chuck Sykes, CEO of Sykes Enterprises, and Ron Christaldi, Partner at Shumaker, Loop and Kendrick.

"We're going to bring together the leaders from throughout the region to help us take on the task of engaging, informing, and at the same time gaining the support, from not just the general public, but gaining the financial support from the business community," Sykes said.

Christaldi added that the project is "all about the future."

"Bringing the Rays to Tampa will transform our region and serve as an economic engine for decades to come," Christaldi said.