Is there a private group working to secure land in the Channelside area of Tampa for a new Rays stadium? That’s what Bill Varian and Stephen Nohlgren of the St. Pete Times are hearing

In another development, hints have surfaced that a private group is trying to assemble potential stadium land in downtown Tampa. Located just north of the St. Pete Times Forum, the site would be a tight squeeze for baseball but could piggy-back with nearby entertainment venues for parking.

When the owner of one piece of land in the Channelside area was asked if land was being purchased for a new stadium, he gave a very telling answer…

“Actually, I can’t talk about that.”

This comes on the heals of news that unlike the St. Pete city council, the Hillsborough County Commission would like to meet with the ABC group about their recommendations for a new Rays stadium. Still, they admit there is no money for a new stadium, even if they wanted to build one.

So who is buying the land? And what assurances do they have from the Rays that the team can and will move there?

The communication would have been off-the-record, and only through back channels and intermediaries, but it is safe to assume that these investors have spoken with the Rays. Whoever this group is, we can’t imagine they are buying land and preparing to build a stadium just on the hope that the Rays would one day call it home. That is just too much money to spend without some assurances.

One problem with the story is the size of the land that would be used to build the new stadium.

Combined with street vacations, the property could total 12 to 16 acres, comparable to St. Petersburg’s Al Lang Field, where the Rays pitched a waterfront stadium two years ago.

The issue not addressed is that the Al Lang site wasn’t big enough for the proposed stadium. A portion of the bay was to be filled in to accommodate the stadium. Still, we assume the investors already have an idea of how the new stadium would fit into the property.

Buying land in Tampa for a new stadium is just the first step. But it is a step. And we are beginning to wonder if a move to Tampa is no longer a question of “if” but a question of “when.”

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19 Comments

  1. Brett says:

    As someone who lives in St. Pete and works in Tampa, I can understand both sides of this fight. St. Pete doesn't want to lose it's baseball team and that makes sense. Tampan's say that if the stadium was there, they'd go to more games. Bottom line is, that if the team doesn't make money in St Pete, they will eventually find a place that they can be profitable, Tampa or otherwise. If St. Pete want's to keep baseball, then we need to support it. I'm sick of the "they have a lease and HAVE to play in St Pete through 20xx" argument. The Rays FO is smart and they WILL get out of that lease if need be. So as baseball fans in the Tampa Bay area, maybe we should swallow our pride and consider that Tampa might be the Rays' best shot at being profitable whilst still remaining local. Channelside seems like a good location and god knows there's plenty of restaurants/things to do nearby. I love going to games at the trop and would love to see a new stadium in St Pete but i just don't think the crotchety old green benchers that dominate local politics in St Pete will ever allow it to happen.

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  2. Don says:

    Does anyone realize Tampa is the armpit of professional sports.....
    Even though their football and hockey teams have won national titles in their sports they are not being supported....
    Don't believe me.... look in the stands at the next game...ask their owners about revenues from ticket sales....where is it headed in future...
    The Rays are growing a franchise in Pinellas Co.,(attendance up the last three years) although downtown not the right location in the Co.
    Why in the hell would these owners... or any pro sport team want to move to Hillbilly Co.????
    and don't tell me population...they are all poverty stricken...... (unemployed)....I know... I do business there...it's the PIT!

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  3. Tone says:

    Thank you for at least mildly addressing the bad public relations coming from ownership. They come across cocky and insulting to the part of the fanbase that doesn't kiss the ground they walk on(I.E. DRaysBay ect..). I was down with trading Kaz but the moment was terrible and the team performed in kind. If they trade CC and Pena in the same way it will be almost funny at this point(A very sad funny). I am surrounded by trust fund babies and wall street assholes like them up here in NYC(shitty Yankee fans too). Wish baseball did not reflect life in that way, Richie Rich ruins everything.

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    • MJ says:

      Tone, i think youve made your opinion on ownership clear by now, can you take it easy on the belligerent rants? Not only do I disagree w/ much of what you say, but the language and "tone" are getting old.

      What happened to the Westshore area? That seemed like the best spot to me. Easy access from both the Howard Franklin (275) and Courtney Campbell (60) would allow fans from Sarasota to North Pinellas relatively easy access, much easier than going to Channelside. Plus, there is much more land, more area for parking, and its more central the Channelside. And there are a ton of office buildings around there, two malls, bars, strip clubs, etc. It's near water also if they are set on building a stadium on the water. It just seems to make more sense.

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      • Tone says:

        Are you a facist or something? I hardly ever comment and when do it is out of anger since rarely do I see varied opinions. Seems like all Rays sites are full of people who dig everything ownership and Maddon do. Trying to keep it real. But I'll stop checking out the sites and creating traffic if that's how you want it.

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        • MJ says:

          I am neither "facist" nor fascist. Don't stop coming on my accord, or commenting for that matter. I am just referring to the latest comments. But it's not my place to tell you what to do, you're right. Just giving my opinion, like you are.

          What would be your solution to the stadium issue/attendance problem?

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          • Beth says:

            Maybe a "facist" is someone who advocates for faces (e.g. face-ist?) Sorry, I'm being silly.

            I also think Westshore would be a good site, but it may be a question of where land can be most easily assembled. There may seem to be a great deal of open space at Westshore but we don't know who controls it or what plans are already in the works. There may also be some areas with restrictions related to proximity to TIA.

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          • Brixology says:

            Westshore Blvd itself is a 2-lane road in the areas where you could potentially fit a stadium (NewPort). That would mean lots of roadwork. By contrast, there are a couple of sites in downtown Tampa that might work. And Tampa has the potential of getting some usable mass transit in place. And the Channelside site as well as the two or three downtown possibilities have some good, existing infrastructure for parking and access. Putting politics aside, I think that is the best option. It just might not work. Particularly with Tampa hamstrung somewhat by the RayJay. Gateway is still the most likely destination, IMHO.

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  4. jim says:

    let's look ahead 3 years after the stadium is built.....

    middle of the season, if the rays aren't within a game or two of the al east lead. KC is here on a weekday night, what do you guys think the attendance will be in a 3 yr old ballpark? less than 20K??

    unless this economy makes a huge rebound, then where's the revenue going to come from? it won't be from attendance and boxes and suites are at the bottom of the list for most companies.

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  5. Pete says:

    I think you're right on Brett. I would have supported the new stadium in St. Pete, but it's never going to happen. I think you're right that the cotton-tops won't let it happen.

    I've gone to quite a few games at the trop over the years. But I'd like to see them upgrade because it's not a place I'm willing to spend a lot of time and money at. I have a wife you see, and most of the time when I go out she wants to come along. We go to a good amount of lightning games as well. To her going to a lightning game is like a "night out" we can go to a restaurant, meet up with some friends after the game, etc. Going to the Trop, for her (not a sports fan), is a drag. It's a bit of a drive, but beyond that, there are no restaurants or upscale places to go before or after the game.

    In fact (before they moved out of Al Lang) we went to lots of spring training games because we could walk to Moon Underwater or a nearby restaurant before the game.

    Anyone I've talked to who doesn't have an agenda, or isn't a sourpuss by nature (Tone), has always said that Channelside would be ideal. But I never thought there would be enough room.

    Build it Stu, and they will come!

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    • Beth says:

      Pete, I largely agree with you -- I have a husband, you see, and like your wife he needs to be enticed to a sporting event (what's wrong with guys these days?) -- but I just wanted to make a bit of a plug for downtown St. Pete. Not the area right around the Trop, perhaps...but for some games the Rays run a shuttle from a parking garage around 1st and central to the game - you park for maybe $5. You miss the crazy traffic right around the trop, and either before or after the game you can go to some of the very good restaurants along Central Avenue or a few blocks away. So while I would support a location outside St. pete, I don't think it's quite accurate to suggest that you can't go to the Trop and make a night of it. I hope the Rays continue to run those shuttle buses - they are free and they have really made me more willing to drive to games from Tampa.

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      • MJ says:

        True, but there really isn't much within reasonable walking distance from the Trop, and while the shuttle is nice, it just doesn't compare. It just seems there aren't enough people who live in the immediate Trop area, can afford to go to games, and then afford to go out afterwards anyway. And the people that can afford to do that live far enough away where they don't want to spend time drinking/socilizing in south st pete after a game when they have to drive 30+ min home afterwards. And Brett's point about his wife goes to show... it's just not sexy to go to the Trop. Whether you want to admit it or not, I know that's a big deal to the people who can afford to buy serious season ticket packages. They want to entertain, and its a lot harder to entertain where the Trop is than dt Tampa. Sure, us die hard fans will make sacrifices, but there aren't enough of us to support the Rays and their attendance goals alone.

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        • Beth says:

          I'm not disagreeing at all, and would love to be able to walk out of a game into a lively restaurant district, but: 1. in the meantime, you can take advantage of restaurants just a few miles away from the Trop, and the shuttle makes that easier, and 2. let's not over-romanticize the surroundings in downtown Tampa -- exit the St. Pete Times forum and you walk through acres of surface parking before getting to anything else, and then what great dining options do you have? Hooters?

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  6. Gus says:

    Tampa has been promising a privately-owned stadium since 1981 when Tom McEwen was only 80% senile. They have NEVER delivered. They only reason there is a team in Tampa Bay is that Pinellas and St. Pete ponied up. No privately-owned stadium will ever work. It is killing the only team that has tried (the Giants) with a $25M annual mortgage payment (plus property taxes). Try paying Florida taxes and Florida property insurance on a $500M retractable roof stadium!!! That would exceed the Trop's debt service alone (much less the $45M a year you'd need to service the debt itself.

    Tampa/Hillsbourough/TSA have already maxed out its community investment tax and can barely pay the debt service on the Forum. Absent a giant reversal in local economic conditions, there is no way this can happen in the next 10 years. None. This is a bunch of real estate owners trying to get the best price for the deserted parcels of land down there. If you want 5 acres around there, you can buy it cheap from Mrs. Davidson and the Lightning ownership.

    Don't forget. The Rays make a bunch of money. They are one of the most profitable teams in the league because they have a super-favorable lease, a decent local TV market and a criminally low payroll. The marginal gain you'd get from a better stadium in downtown Tampa will NEVER be off-set by the costs associated with the stadium unless Tampa makes it a total giveaway. They are too broke to make such a giveaway.

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  7. Jordi says:

    In a perfect world, I think putting a stadium between Channelside and Ybor is a brilliant idea. It would incorporate the trolley that they are extending further downtown and also the already built parking garages. You don't need parking right next to the stadium. Although smaller, check out AutoZone Ballpark in downtown Memphis. Now is there enough available money in the area to support the team in downtown Tampa? Hopefully.

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    • MJ says:

      let's keep in mind that you dont want to alienate all the pinelass county people either. The point is to be central.

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  8. leningan says:

    Forget about a stadium on the waterfont. How about a stadium "on" (or in) the water... Pontoon Park! Put it right on the hillsborough/pinellas line add a couple exits on either side of the howard franklin and voila! A centrally located, state of the art, waterfront(?) stadium... water taxi services to beat the traffic, kayakers shagging home runs, an aquarium underneath, mermaids, etc. perfect!

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  9. leningan says:

    Damn! Didn't think about that... what if we make the stadium shaped like a sun dial?

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