When you do not succeed at first, you try, and try again and the Tampa Bay Rays will need to do just that in their search for a new stadium site.
The hopes of finding a site to build a new stadium took a bit of hit as Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg, who was in town to watch his Rays host the Yankees at Charlotte Sports Park told reporters prior to the game that their top choice and possibly their second for a new stadium site was not available.
There was no indication as to where this site was located, that being either in Pinellas, Hillsborough or another county altogether. All that remained the same was that the Rays initial deal with St. Petersburg is that they will be allowed to look elsewhere.
During FanFest back in February, Sternberg was optimistic that a new site would be chosen by August or at the latest by the end of the season. Those feelings were made possible because of the assistance that was coming from Major League Baseball and the continuing cooperation from the mayors of Tampa and St. Petersburg, Bob Buckhorn and Rick Kriseman respectfully.
During the Governor’s Baseball Dinner, which was held in Lakeland, Florida on Feb. 16, Commissioner Bob Manfred agreed with Sternberg’s assessment that a search for a new stadium would be resolved/expected by August.
The Rays search for a stadium has been going on for years, but it was only last January when the City of St. Petersburg gave the Rays permission to look outside Pinellas County. Since being allowed to look outside Pinellas County, there has been an abundant amount of suggestions coming from Hillsborough County with several sites that could be feasible for a new stadium. From the Florida Fair Grounds, to downtown Tampa by Channelside to land adjacent to Raymond James Stadium home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
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Last July, Pinellas County commissioners put together a list of potential sites ranging from Oldsmar in an adjacent parcel of land next to the Race Track to a handful of vacant areas including the land around Tropicana Field.
Regardless where the Rays will build a stadium, another important issue that has not been discussed is mass transit and the lack of such. There is no direct transit to Tropicana Field or for any of the proposed sites – there are buses, though give yourself three hours in order to meet connections to and from, there is no rail north, south, east or west.
How great it would be if there were light rail service from northern Pinellas (Clearwater, Dunedin, and Tarpon Springs) or Pasco Counties (Holiday, New Port Richey and Springhill) to Tropicana Field – instead of spending one or two hours or more on the road driving on U.S. 19 to pick up I-275, just get on the train and within 30 minutes you have arrived at the Trop. Better yet, just provide additional rail service from all directions – the mantra of “Build it they will come” could actually work.
No matter where the locations were, whether or not they were available and regardless of Sternberg stating he thought they would work it is back to the drawing board, only this time it will be the next best site and not the very best.