On Thursday the Tampa Bay Devil Rays unveiled their new uniforms and logos and officially announced that they would be changing their name to the “Tampa Bay Rays”. Knowing that these moves would anger a large percentage of the team’s current fans, the front office decided that Friday would be a good time to distract the fan base with a real big cookie. A cookie big enough to seat 35,000.
On Friday, the Rays leaked to the press, plans to build a 35,000 seat-open-air baseball stadium to be built along the bay at the current site of Al Lang Field (AKA Prospect Energy Park).
The Tampa Bay Rays have developed a bold plan to build a $450-million downtown stadium that would give fans waterfront views and protection from rain…The stadium, to be built on the site of Al Lang Field, would seat about 35,000 and could open as early as 2012. Hitters there would have a chance to send the ball into the bay…Financing is still being worked out, but a primary source would be proceeds of the sale of the Tropicana Field site to a developer who would build a large retail/residential complex there. The Rays also would make a contribution, perhaps as much as $150-million, covering one-third of the cost…The team also would seek legislative approval for $60-million of state money in future sales tax revenue from food, beer and merchandise sales in the new park.
The idea of the Rays playing in an open-air stadium that overlooks the bay makes us giddy as a school girl. The innovative idea of using two sail-like structures to cover the field in the event of rain, is such a simple and obvious idea, it can only be described as brilliant considering nobody had thought of it before. Our only question (besides wondering how plausible the funding scenario is) is how will the new stadium fit in the proposed location.
Based on the description of the stadium, home runs over the right-field fence would have a chance of landing in the bay, and left field would sit above the current parking lot on the north side of Al Lang Field. The problem with this scenario is that even a small minor league park such as Al Lang Field would not fit in the space provided between Bayshore Dr. and 1st St.
We decided to see exactly how a new stadium would fit into the allocated space.
As can be seen from the aerial view, Bayshore Dr (to the east) and 1st St. (to the west) draw closer together traveling north past the stadium. Even Al Lang Stadium would not fit between those two streets if it were shifted even slightly to the North.
Based on the description of the proposed stadium (35,000 seats, open air), the closest approximation we could come up with was the new PNC Park in Pittsburgh which seats 38,500. In fact, PNC Park works well, because the right field wall runs parallel to the river in Pittsburgh.
If the new park is rotated and shifted, so that right field is along the water and left field is over the current parking lot, the stadium would need to be pushed out over the water, so as to avoid disrupting 1st street. Doing so, would require the city to shut down Bayshore Dr. In fact, part of the bay would have to be filled in to accommodate the new stadium.
Is it possible that the Tampa Bay Rays could be playing in a new open-air stadium as early as 2012? We are not getting our hopes up yet, as team and city officials still have a lot of hoops to jump through. And we are still not absolutely certain a new stadium would fit in the proposed location, but if the goal of the team was to divert the attention of their fans…it worked. We barely remember that Kevin Costner has made a lot of bad movies.