The initial stories on Tuesday evening had the Rays packing up their equipment and moving to Tampa, just as soon as the traffic thinned out on the Howard Frankland. Hold on there, can’t you see the third base coach holding the runner at second? This is just another step in the process, albeit a significant step. Finally, a location in Hillsborough County for the Rays to build their new stadium.
But is it THE site?
The Rays, through team president Brian Auld, had a rather tepid response in a released statement. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was surprised by Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan’s announcement, then wondered aloud, “where’s the money?”
First of all, if you’re looking for a stadium with beautiful vistas of Downtown Tampa, this doesn’t have it. Immediately south of the stadium site, is a view of the Selmon Expressway. Further south of the Selmon is the Ybor Channel, which right now is home to big ship repair facilities. The Tampa skyline is blocked by other buildings. Right now, the 14-acre site northeast of Channelside Drive and Adamo is filled with aging warehouses...both filled and empty. It takes a visionary with resources to see this area being developed. And I am neither, so I’m not a lot of help in getting that done.
There are positives. The site is within walking distance of Ybor City, so a stadium would be a boon to Ybor. And if you haven’t been there lately, it’s growing. Lunch at an outdoor café on a sunny afternoon was lovely… and that included a rooster roaming around the courtyard. Now, I haven’t been to Ybor after midnight in years, but it used to be trouble...so you may not want that Rays’ night game to go to extra innings. But the restaurants in Ybor and nearby taverns are exactly what a baseball team needs.
So, again, we wait. Wait for the 9-month negotiating period between the Rays and Hillsborough, with another 6-month option available. And wait for Pinellas to come up with its location, which St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman believes will be a redeveloped Tropicana Field.
The Channel District / Ybor site is not the grand slam I was hoping for...more like a clean single to left. But at least it could get the rally started.