After years of planning, a private developer revealed plans for a brand-new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays. But there are still some big hurdles to clear before the plans become a reality.
Everybody we spoke with said they were impressed with the presentation they saw. People said the firm really did their homework. And sure, it all looked and sounded good, but the one question nobody heard an answer to yet was, who is going to pay for it?
"Now is the time to move forward," said Darryl LeClair. It's taken two years for him to roll out Cityscape's plans for a brand new stadium to city and county leaders, with a price tag pushing $576 million, called Rays Park At Carillon.
"It's a place that delivers over 14,000 employees today and over 3,000 residents live in Carillon today," said LeClair, who'd invested two years of research, without so much as a nod from the Rays, as to whether they'll play ball with him.
"We really can't talk to Cityscape until we have an amendment signed with the Rays, so I re-up the offer, hey, let's sign this amendment and see what else they have in store," said St. Pete Mayor, Bill Foster.
The new stadium has a retractable roof and rear wall. Plus, LeClair claims this is an ideal 30-minute travel time from key points around Tampa Bay.
"They said that there are a lot more residents and fans in the 30-minute drive time, in the Carillon Parkway area, as opposed to the Dale Mabry site or the current site," said Michelle Miller, who is studying the project as a matter of public policy for St. Petersburg College.
The new design includes office, residential and entertainment, even a hotel, all of which would form the walls of the ballpark.
"I think it's a thumbs-up," said Miller.
"Very well thought out," said Sharon Ruffi, who's been a longtime Rays devotee. "Very well planned"
"Super proposal!," said David Mohr, who lives in Carillon. "Is there a 'but' in there?," we asked as he paused for a moment. "Yes, there's a 'but' there, you picked it up! It's just, I hope it works," he said shrugging his shoulders.
Mohr said it'd be like shoe-horning the stadium into a very tight parcel.
"Been going since the Rays started, absolutely major Rays fan!," said Ruffi, who saw the entire presentation. This was, by the way, the most comprehensive alternative plan we've seen since the team's waterfront proposal got submarined back in 2008.
But was it tasty enough to clear some of the sour grapes between the City and the Rays?
"I would love to keep them in St. Pete, I think it's where they belong," said Ruffi. "But I would support them in Tampa as well."
"Who's gonna pay for it?," we asked Miller.
"That's the question that went unanswered," she said.
It could be privately financed or a public-private joint venture, which LeClair has said, would have no direct burden on taxpayers.
"Everybody said we couldn't get to the moon, but we did!," laughed Mohr.
There were some members of the Rays management on-hand to see the presentation, but they've been pretty clear about it so far, that they won't explore any options to build a new stadium in St. Pete, until the city frees them to explore options over the bridge in Hillsborough County or anywhere else for that matter. Mayor Foster has not agreed to that yet.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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