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Tampa, Hillsborough waiting for the Rays Stadium

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The city of St. Petersburg is on the hook over potentially deciding on future Tampa Bay Rays stadium plans, but the city of Tampa and Hillsboro County are running training swings in the circuit on deck.

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Two days before Thanksgiving, Tampa Bay Rays President Matt Silverman and others from the team met by videoconference with Tampa Sports Authority CEO Eric Hart, Hillsborough County Superintendent Bonnie Wise, Chief of Staff Tampa Mayor Jan Castor John Bennett, and other city, county, and authority representatives for a stadium briefing. Proposed baseball north of the Ybor Canal.

The meeting came on the same day that Darryl Shaw’s Banana Docks LLC closed a $1.2 million deal to purchase two lots slated to become part of the project. The land, formerly owned by the JH Williams Oil Company, is a quadrangular lot at 1616 Penny St. and adjacent property at 1705 E Adamo Drive on the edge of Lee Roy Selmon Highway.

Shaw previously announced plans To acquire and develop the adjacent 25-acre ship repair site at the north end of Port Tampa Bay – land targeted by Rays as Stadium location in 2016.

Renderings for the new Rays stadium plan, shown to city and county officials during a November 22 briefing, were released to the Tampa Bay Business Journal after City of Tampa mobility director Vic Bhyde took a screenshot from the images. It was the first public confirmation of the Rays’ continued interest in potentially moving the team to Tampa after two failed attempts earlier.

The City of Tampa has not yet provided records in response to the Tampa Bay Times’ request Tuesday for all notes and other documents that Bhide may have produced. Normally, in highly sensitive stadium conversations, participants don’t take notes to avoid creating a public record. However, Bhide took the screenshots “for note-taking purposes,” said Adam Smith, a spokesperson for Castor.

The Tampa Sports Authority and county and city employees, along with Commissioner Ken Hagan and Mayor Gene Castor, are scheduled to speak by phone Tuesday afternoon.

The publicity came as the Rays were simultaneously seeking a deal in St. Petersburg to build a new stadium as part of the redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site as a gas plant historic district. Essentially, the team proposed to the St. Petersburg native while he was still courting a passionate other across the bay.

The Tampa Bay Rays did not respond to requests for comment.

“We understand that the Rays are looking at alternative options just as the City is considering all of its options related to the redevelopment of the Historic Gas Plant District,” Mayor Ken Welch said in a statement.

“Obviously we want them in Tampa and St. Pete clearly wants them in St. Pete,” Castor said.

The November 22 stadium upgrade came just two weeks after Hillsborough County voters rejected a sales tax referendum to pay for transportation. It puts the county government in a position to try to help with what could be a near billion dollar baseball stadium after recognition 10 years, a deficit of $2.2 billion Specialized in the construction and maintenance of roads, intersections, sidewalks and driveways.

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“The transportation needs in this county are definitely big and the stadium infrastructure needs are big, too. It’s always been a tough deal,” Wise said.

Commissioner Michael Owen, who represents East and South Hillsborough, was more blunt.

“It’s really hard to sell a commitment to a baseball field right now,” Owen said. “I don’t know how excited my constituents are to fund a baseball stadium where we are now.”

Hagan, who had been on the Sports Authority’s board of directors and been a vocal supporter of trying to bring the Rays to Tampa, was more optimistic.

“The bottom line is, the devil is in the details,” Hagan said. “My goal has always been for the stadium to be funded primarily from user fees, not tax dollars.”

Study commissioned by the Tampa Sports Authority At another Shaw-owned site in Ybor City, he proposed paying the public portion of stadium costs through a possible tax or assessment within a new football field district that would take up the stadium site and areas beyond. That study, released in February, also calculated an additional $14 million annually in property taxes from nearly 6 million square feet of “additional development” in Ybor City.

expected study The cost of a stadium with a roof that can accommodate 27,000 fans is $960 million. That stadium proposal, part of the Rays’ plan to play a separate season with Montreal, died after Major League Baseball killed off the joint season concept on January 20.

This did not end the prospects for a stadium in Tampa, however. Less than two weeks later, according to authority records, the Sports Authority’s consulting attorney, Irwin B. Raige, on the phone with Rice, Hart, and Skanska — consultant on stadium proposal. By April, Raige was talking to Shaw as well as city and county officials.

The pace of those talks and the Rays’ due diligence accelerated after August 31 when Shaw announced his acquisition of land in the Ybor Canal. Through a spokesperson, Shaw declined to comment for this story.

But it is possible that the city and county sports authority will not be in a hurry to come up with a financing package while redevelopment proposals are being implemented in St. Petersburg. The systematic pace reduces the team’s chances of benefiting from one city’s proposal versus another’s.

Radiology has not yet made a specific proposal, Hagan and Wise said. Wise described the talks as preliminary and said the county had to “understand the team’s needs and their plans before you can really propose anything meaningful. That’s what we’ve been trying to do, is understand what they’re proposing to us and asking us.”

Castor acknowledged, in a statement, “There are still important questions that need to be answered regarding financing, infrastructure, and more.”

So, what’s the next step?

“That’s probably the best question for them (the Rays),” Wise said.

Times staff writer Christopher O’Donnell contributed to this report.

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