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Tampa Bay Rays Unveil Design For Ybor City Ballpark

The Tampa Bay Rays unveiled their long-awaited plans Tuesday for a new ballpark in Tampa's historic Ybor City.

The ultramodern design includes glass walls, a translucent dome to let in sunlight to potentially allow for natural grass, while having features that tip its hat to the surrounding Latin district.

The price tag came in as well: $809 million - plus $83 million in infrastructure improvements.

Who will pay for the park remains the big question. On Wednesday, Rays' principal owner Stuart Sternberg told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board that the team will kick in more than the $150 million figure he spoke about last year.

But he wouldn't say how much more, only that it would not be multiples of that figure.

However, he did suggest that things could change depending on market changes, pointing specifically at ballpark naming rights, season ticket sales and corporate support.

The stadium's roof makes up a third of the cost at about $244 million. Rays Chief Development Officer Melanie Lenz said the dome was a heavily discussed item.

"Knowing that we had to have a roof, we had three key goals," Lenz said. "This roof had to be elegant, it had to be efficient and it had to be economical."

Having a roof over the ballpark is a necessity because half of the Rays' games are played at home in Florida, a state notorious for its summer storms. 

Team officials intend the ballpark to be a year-round gathering spot, possibly with surrounding streets closed on game days to create a more intimate atmosphere.

The capacity would be intimate as well. It would seat only 28,216, with standing-room only areas increasing that number to 30,842. It would be the smallest ballpark in Major League Baseball.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, whose term ends early next year, supports the project despite the cost.

"I would think whoever the next mayor is would be making a big mistake to somehow stop this forward momentum that we have," Buckhorn said. "We're on a trajectory that we haven't been on ever. To stop that, or to redirect it I think would be making a really critical mistake."

Buckhorn added he does not think Tampa taxpayers would ever approve a referendum to fund the project.

"I don't think it would pass," Buckhorn said. "I think there are other ways that tourists could pay...but in terms of coming right off your tax bill, no."

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, who helped negotiate a deal that allowed the Rays to look elsewhere in Pinellas and Hillsborough County for a new home, released a statement on Twitter shortly after the designs were released.

Rays officials said that the earliest construction could start is 2020. 

"We believe that baseball can not only survive but thrive in Tampa, in Tampa Bay and the Tampa Bay region." - Rays owner Stuart Sternberg

Lenz was joined by Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg and other team management at the conference, which drew more than 300 local officials and media to the Italian Club of Tampa.

“I’m proud and incredibly excited to present our vision of a ballpark and one that is of, by and for the people of Tampa Bay,” said Sternberg.

“I speak for the whole Rays organization and the 20 years we’ve had here today that we expect to be here for generations to come. We believe that baseball can not only survive but thrive in Tampa, in Tampa Bay and the Tampa Bay region.”

Here's some details from the Rays' web site, Ballpark Reimagined:

Innovative and fan-friendly, the ballpark would be fully enclosed by a translucent roof to ensure comfortable temperatures and game certainty. Dramatic sliding glass exterior walls beyond center field and behind home plate bring the outside in, offering stunning views of Tampa, Channelside and Ybor City, as well as cross breeze in pleasant weather.
The ballpark would be the most intimate in Major League Baseball, with 28,216 fixed seats and a total capacity of 30,842. A small upper level creates the closest vantage point of any modern ballpark, with a maximum distance of 204 feet from the field. Fans choose from 17 comfortable, unique seating areas, or 21 distinct viewing platforms and social gathering spaces.
The ballpark’s light colors, water features and modern contours invoke the bright future of the Tampa Bay region, while blending in seamlessly to the historic, urban fabric of Ybor City. Its accessible design enables it to serve as a year-round community asset, with the potential for programming, events and creative partnerships.
The Ybor location is within a 30-minute drive of over 1.6 million people who call the Tampa Bay area home. The ballpark is projected to cost $809 million with additional infrastructure costs of $83 million and could be complete for Opening Day 2023.

Credit Tampa Bay Rays

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
Sam Newlon interning as a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news reporter for spring 2018.
Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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