Pete businesses crushed by Rays Ybor City announcement

Pleasant Matt

The Tampa Bay Rays may finally be taking the next step in their seemingly eternal efforts to secure a new ballpark.

A team of business leaders and local politicians joined Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg for Friday's announcement of the "Tampa Bay Rays 2020" group, whose main goal will be drumming up corporate backing for a project that could cost $800-million or more.

"I think we'll do better than what they do in St. Petersburg, partially because of the history here, partially because of the proximity to downtown Tampa, Polk County and Pasco County", he said. "It represents the finest opportunity for Major League Baseball to thrive in this region for generations to come".

But Buckhorn also praised 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.

The news conference was held in the heart of Ybor City in the future home of the Tampa Baseball Museum. "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". The Rays are a regional asset, and it will take regional support to ensure baseball remains in Tampa Bay.

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It is closer to the population center of Tampa Bay than Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Some have blamed the location of Tropicana Field for the Rays having one of the lowest attendance numbers in baseball year after year.

"Ybor City is authentically Tampa Bay", Sternberg said, according to The Tampa Bay Times. The Rays have struggled to remain competitive in large part due to their limited payroll. The Rays also are going to have to kick in significantly more than the $150 million Sternberg has previously suggested to make the numbers work. "And so that is why the team is going to announce (Friday) that this is their preferred site".

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan said he and others have spent years trying to bring the Rays to Ybor City.

The team noted that it will be putting in a "good amount" of money towards the stadium's construction although, it didn't cite a hard number or give any sort of range that Tampa could rely on moving forward. The team and city would still need to agree how to divide the bill for a new ballpark.

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