TAMPA, Fla .(WFLA) – For the first time, the Tampa Bay Rays are confirming a location in Ybor City is their sole focus for building a new stadium to keep the team in the region.
At a press conference Friday, officials announced plans to bring the team from St. Petersburg to the historic Tampa neighborhood.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Rays’ owner Stuart Sternberg, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan and other business leaders were in attendance and answered questions about the team’s future.
“Ybor City is authentically Tampa Bay,” Sternberg said. “This is where we want to be playing and the possibilities are very, very exciting to me and to my organization and to Major League Baseball,” said Sternberg.
“This is our sole focus right now. I don’t want to talk about any other possibilities right now. Our entire focus now and energies are going to be put towards getting this project done and as the people up here have said, it’s going to be a complex project and it’s going to need all of our energies to get it done,” he said.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn says funding for a new stadium will be a complex deal.
“This is going to be far more complex, as it should be than what Raymond James was, which was one source, entirely paid by the taxpayers. This transaction will not look anything like that,” said Buckhorn.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan has been working on a deal to bring the Rays to the Tampa side of the bay for months and says identifying corporate sponsorships and gaining community support will be a key part of getting the deal done.
“This is a critically important element because in St. Pete, ticket sales and corporate support have lagged. I am confident that will not be the case in Tampa,” said Hagan.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman responded to the official announcement.
“It is not a final decision,” he said. “It is far from being a final decision at this point.”
“What we are going to do though, is start phase two of our master planning process, which is to look at that 86 acres without a stadium on it and start the planning for that.”
Kriseman said he still wants to the team to be successful if they move across the bay, however.
“Because I want to be able to continue to go to the games myself,” he said.
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