Rays Notes: Developer's Stadium Proposal, Longo Looks Back at Game 162

The developer CityScape made their long-awaited presentation to the St. Petersburg council regarding a proposal for a new Rays stadium. The Rays were in attendance to hear it. Here are some of the key points courtesy of the Tampa Bay Times.

Carillon, a triangle bounded by Ulmerton Road, Roosevelt Boulevard and Interstate 275, is an office park and neighborhood, with about 14,000 workers and 3,000 residents. Large employers like Raymond James Financial, Bright House Networks and Franklin Templeton Investments have headquarters there.

LeClair’s companies control about 17.5 acres along its northern edge and hope to acquire another five.

The proposed stadium footprint would consume nearly half of that space, ringed by Mediterranean Revival office buildings, retail stores, apartments and a hotel that would form many of the stadium’s outside walls.

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The air conditioned stadium would seat 35,000, either with a retractable roof or a fixed window pane roof, fashioned from the tough, light plastic that covered Beijing’s Water Cube during the 2008 Olympics.

A transparent rear wall would afford views of Tampa Bay by day and into the lit-up field from Ulmerton Road by night.

Seats would rise steeply, so lower, middle and upper decks would all be close to the field. Concourses and concessions would remain open to the action.

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If construction began in 2014, CityScape estimates the stadium would cost $540 million to $570 million, including land and infrastructure. That’s consistent with the Miami Marlins stadium that opened this year.

 …….

Though the Trop contract runs through 2027, the main stadium bonds will be paid off by 2016. At that point, a 1 percent Pinellas hotel tax that now supports the Trop might be rolled over for a new stadium without massive political resistance.

Money from selling the Trop land might also be available because that cash flow wouldn’t exist without a new stadium.

Those two sources might reasonably generate $150 million or so toward new construction. And the Rays have indicated they might contribute $150 million toward the right project.

Even then, a $250 million gap would remain.

The drive for a new stadium stems from Rays owner Stuart Sternberg’s contention that the Trop is not viable for baseball in the long run. Attendance has been tepid, reflecting badly on the Trop’s location, its aging amenities and the entire region’s potential as a baseball market.

Any new stadium needs to be in the best possible location, Sternberg has said, and he will not consider any new Pinellas site without exploring Hillsborough possibilities as well.

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Friday’s presentation at the Hilton hotel in Carillon, includeda drive time analysis that touted the Pinellas Gateway as a closer location for fans than downtown Tampa or Dale Mabry Highway.

It was conducted by Whit Blanton of the Renaissance Planning Group, based on data from the Florida Department of Transportation. The results were a bit surprising.

A few years ago, a group of civic leaders called the ABC Coalition looked at population and businesses within a 30-minute drive of various stadium sites. That’s a standard major league measuring stick, based on fan willingness to travel to mid-week games.

The ABC study found that 1.7 million people lived within 30 minutes of downtown Tampa’s Channelside District, 90,000 more than Carillon could attract. Tampa also held the edge in employees, critical because people often travel directly from work to mid-week games.

The ABC Coalition, however, based its numbers on drive times spread throughout the day, LeClair said. His group examined only weekday traffic from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. — when fans would actually be on the road.

During those periods, traffic flows more easily from Hillsborough to Pinellas than the other way around, the analysis found. An eastbound bottleneck around Tampa International Airport was one major cause.

Few people from Pinellas can reach downtown Tampa in 30 minutes during rush hour, the study showed, whereas many people can make it to Carillon from downtown Tampa, South Tampa, West Tampa and near North Tampa.

The CityScape analysis showed that 1,142,000 people live within a 30-minute drive of Carillon during afternoon rush hour and 588,000 work within that distance. That compares to 1,038,000 residents and 506,000 workers for downtown Tampa.

 Here is what the proposed stadium would look like.
Now that we’re getting some actual details, this is getting interesting. If those traffic numbers are really true, the Rays will definitely have to consider Carillon. But the big questions remain of financing the stadium and simply the fact that the city of St. Petersburg has refused to let the Rays consider any site outside Pinellas County. Will it happen? Probably not. But at the very least, people are trying to solve this issue and hopefully a new Rays stadium plan will be set into place before too long.
Evan Longoria talked to the Tampa Tribune about Game 162, which was a year ago today.

We’ll never forget Game 162. But as Longoria said, the Rays have the ability to do better. The 2011 Rays were like the 1951 Giants who had the Shot Heard ‘Round the World in a way as everyone remembers how they got to the playoffs, but once they got there, they lost. It doesn’t matter if there’s not nearly as much drama. All the Rays want is to return to the postseason and get the pitching and hitting to make some noise. Hopefully the Rays can continue their incredible play of late and make that a reality.

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