We now know what the Tampa Bay Rays’ proposed Ybor City ballpark will look like.
On Tuesday, the team — which in February announced that its preferred new home is in the historic district — shared plans (plus hot dogs, cotton candy and popcorn) with media, city officials and invited guests during a 2 p.m. press conference inside a very celebratory Italian Club, just a few blocks from the 14-acre site that the proposed park would sit on.
Principal owner Stuart Sternberg, team presidents Brian Auld and Matt Silverman, chief development officer Melanie Lenz, and members of international architecture firm Populus — which designed the Rays’ Port Charlotte spring training facility— were on hand to reveal the plans, which feature a translucent roof, synthetic turf and a total capacity of 30,842. There would be a total of 28,216 fixed seats in the stadium with 14,348 at field level, 5,230 on the loge level and 5,138 in the terrace. The capacity would make it the smallest ballpark in Major League Baseball.
There will also be 21 distinct viewing platforms and social gathering spaces which are connected by a 360-degree concourse featuring complete views of the playing field.
Fountain seating, bullpen bars that bring players closer to fans, a brewpub and the famous stingray touch tank are also included in plans. Planners even envision seeing Fourth Avenue occasionally shut down on game day the same way the Boston Red Sox close Yawkey Way.
The estimated price tag has not yet been revealed at this point of the press conference.
The total pricetag though? Just north of $892 million. The ballpark is projected to cost $809 million with additional infrastructure costs of $83 million and could be complete for Opening Day 2023. The glass-domed roof is 30-percent of the total cost and will cost $244,951,026. Team officials said that a retractable roof does not make sense when site restrictions plus construction and operation budget are considered.
Infrastructure investments include necessary public realm and safety improvements. Mobility and resiliency improvements are also part of the plans. Relocation of the TECO substation and site acquisition cost are not included in cost estimates.
Before Tuesday’s conference, The Rays had yet to officially disclose how much they would be willing to pay. So who's paying for this thing?
“We do not have those answers yet,” Auld said, adding that he's happy that the ballpark has a scope, projected cost plus an organization, local allies and fans excited to make the dream a reality.
Both Hillsborough Commissioner Ken Hagan — who helped open the door for the Rays to pursue a move to Tampa — and Mayor Bob Buckhorn have said raising taxes is not an option, but the Tampa Bay Times said that money set aside for community improvement projects could be used for utility lines and road realignment to support a ballpark. Profits from surrounding development may also be part of the financing plan.
Parking hawks should know that a 1,000 space garage is to be constructed adjacent to the site, and that stadium planners think that 10,000 spaces will be needed to accommodate maximum parking demand. According to the team, 23,3000 spaces are within a one mile radius of the ballpark with more than 10,000 of those spaces available within a 10-minute walk.
What no one in the press conference really talked about was the way that Ybor's ongoing, seemingly inevitable, transformation will change the lives of business owners who don't own the titles of the buildings they operate out of. The district has already seen the extermination of beloved establishments like Czar (future home of a boutique hotel) and long-running music venue New World Brewery (bulldozed to make way for condos), and as property values rise the question about what's authentically Ybor continues to come up. Is it the coffee shops? Cigar joints? Live music venues? What happens when landlords cash out and more beloved Ybor City haunts have to find new homes?
More info on the ballpark is available at ballparkreimagined.com.