Hillsborough County officials have chosen a site near downtown Tampa as their top choice for a new Tampa Bay Rays stadium, according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal.
But possibly losing the hometown baseball team has become an issue in the St. Petersburg mayor's race.
County Commissioner Ken Hagan, who has directed negotiations for the county, says a nearly 14-acre site in Ybor City near the northern tip of downtown's Channel District is the commission's pick.
The Tampa Bay Business Journal reports the proposed site is between East Fourth Avenue and Adamo Drive to the north and south and 15th Street and Channelside Drive to the east and west.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said he still feels really confident in St. Petersburg and a redeveloped Tropicana Field site for a new stadium.
After speaking Wednesday to students in a University of South Florida St. Petersburg political science class, Kriseman channeled Mark Twain, telling reporters, "The rumors of our stadium site's death are greatly exaggerated."
"We knew at some point in time Hillsborough was going to identify a site somewhere," said Kriseman. "The next step for them is to put a presentation and package together and present that to the Rays -- that has not happened yet, and really until that happens, the Rays aren't going to make any decision because they want to give Hillsborough the opportunity to present their full package."
Kriseman's opponent in the November election, former Mayor Rick Baker issued a statement shortly after the county's announcement:
"Clearly Rick Kriseman's modification of the Rays agreement to let them look elsewhere has hurt our chances to retain them in St. Petersburg, and the announcement last night is proof of that. I will work with the Rays in an effort to keep them in St. Pete, in any case, I will work on a plan for that 86-acres that will benefit all the citizens of St. Pete," said Baker.
Tampa Bay Rays President Brian Auld also released a statement in response to the announcement.
“This is another important step in the site selection process, and we are grateful for the time and attention that went into making it a possibility," Auld said. "We look forward to getting to work evaluating this option, along with those in Pinellas County including the Tropicana Field site, as a potential future home for Rays Baseball in Tampa Bay for generations to come.”
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn didn't know the proposal would be announced Tuesday, but he told 970 WFLA radio on Wednesday morning that didn't bother him.
"Let me say for the record, the county does not speak for the city in any way, shape or form: never has never will,'' Buckhorn said. "But I'm excited about the potential. I think the location makes a lot of sense. … It gives the Rays what they are looking for in terms of an urban location. It allows for additional development around the stadium."
Buckhorn also said, "I'm not sure the Rays were neck-deep in that announcement either, and I'm not sure the timing of it (on the afternoon before the first game of the World Series) inured to their benefit, but it is what it is."