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With Vinik Plan Unveiled, Buckhorn Waits on Rays

Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Tropicana Field.

It's a "big week," according to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn - an understatement for a man who may get all of his gifts well before the holidays this year.

Now that Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has unveiled his billion dollar "vision plan" for redeveloping the southern portion of downtown Tampa, Buckhorn is turning his focus to the possibility that the Tampa Bay Rays could be part of his city's new look.

The St. Petersburg City Council is scheduled to vote at 3 p.m. Thursday on whether or not to allow the Rays to look for new stadium sites in Pinellas or Hillsborough Counties.

Shortly after Vinik unveiled his plan Wednesday, Buckhorn told reporters he'd be keeping a close eye on what the St. Petersburg City Council decides.

"Christmas is coming very early, to roll out this today (Wednesday) and to know potentially tomorrow that we're going to have a chance to compete for baseball is a pretty exciting time for the City of Tampa," he said.

"I think baseball fits in the urban environment, I think that's where they want to be - it doesn't have to be on that ConAgra site," he added, focusing on a flour mill just north of Vinik's holdings rumored to be a potential stadium site for the Rays. "There are other sites that are available that would allow us to link Ybor City to downtown and connect to this Channelside area that would round off the eastern side of our city in ways that we can't even imagine."

Buckhorn did admit there's one question he can't answer right now about the Rays.

"If you ask me now how we'd pay for it, I couldn't tell you," he said. "But we're excited to have the chance to compete for it. I don't know where this journey is going to take us with baseball, but I know that we'll give it our best shot because ultimately, our goal is to make sure the Rays don't leave the Bay area."

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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