The Tampa Bay Rays are in a stadium predicament, something that the team has been in for years; however, only this time it is with their spring training complex, as Charlotte County officials and the Rays officially announced that Charlotte Sports Park will not be ready for the club's 2023 spring training schedule, forcing the Rays now to look for new alternate options for the season.
This announcement comes as no surprise to some, as the stadium took a major hit due to the impact of Hurricane Ian in the late part of September.
The Rays spring training facility, which actually opened in 1987 as the home of the Texas Rangers spring training and minor league club, suffered severe damage to both the main park and the main buildings at the complex.
Photos show that awnings at the main park and signage were completely torn off the stadium, and major flooding caused problems at certain parts of the complex as well.
This announcement now brings up the question of what is available for the Rays to allow them to host spring training for the '23 slate, as the team will need not only a main stadium for games but also adequate enough facilities to accommodate staff and players and host workouts for the team.
With that, these are the four options that the Rays have for spring training this upcoming season:
Disney's Wide World of Sports Baseball Complex (Lake Buena Vista, FL)
This might be the most ideal option to become the temporary home for the Tampa Bay Rays in spring '23.
Disney's Baseball Complex has a few advantages over other potential venues, including the fact that it was a former spring training home, hosting Braves spring training until 2019, when the team would relocate to nearby North Port, the now Rays spring training geographical rival.
Another thing that this stadium brings is adequate facilities. The stadium at the ESPN Wide World of Sport, formerly Champion Stadium, is one of the nicer stadiums that have been used in the Grapefruit League, and the workout fields are also solid, as the facility continues to host many tournaments and events on the fields.
Also, this would give the Rays a chance to tap into a market in Florida that they have had ties to before, as the Rays have played regular season games in the past at the Wide World of Sports complex during their Devil Rays/Rays seasons in 2007 versus Texas and in 2008 versus Toronto.
Space Coast Complex (Viera, FL)
The second ideal option would be the Space Coast Complex in Viera, FL.
The Space Coast Complex, like the Wide World of Sports Complex, has all of the necessary amenities, and the complex has hosted spring training for many years, most recently the Nationals.
The Space Coast Complex is a truly stunning facility when compared to what it was before the Nats relocated to West Palm Beach, with the complex receiving a $32 million dollar makeover as it became a multi-purpose baseball and softball facility for many events.
The only thing that may hold back the Rays from making the move over to Space Coast would be the travel, with a majority of the Rays' spring schedule being played against west coast-based spring training clubs, but a turf field could also make for a good acclimation opportunity for players if the Rays do choose this facility, with the main stadium, Space Coast Stadium, featuring an all-turf playing surface.
Tropicana Field & Regional Fields
The next two options are more hypothetical than anything else, but this has been brought up as a possibility, as Tropicana Field could either split or host all of the spring training games for the Rays in 2023; the downside would be the facilities.
Without proper facilities for the other players and staff who will be with the team for the '23 spring season, things will be difficult not only in terms of traveling minor league players and calling up type players to the main squad, but it will also create a challenge when having team workouts, which could blow the Trop idea out of the water.
City of Palms Park & Ft. Myers Spring Facilities (Twins & Red Sox)
The final true option that the Rays have, which may not be the worst but could be somewhat of an outlandish idea, is to host spring training in the Fort Myers area, with their main park being the former spring home of the Red Sox, City of Palms Park, which is strictly used now by Florida Southwestern State College.
Although City of Palms Park has taken a step back in terms of stadium amenities, it is serviceable enough to be used for just a handful of spring games one more time, and with the two other complexes close by in Boston and Minnesota, this could be a viable option.
However, with many of the effects that Hurricane Ian had, especially more so in the Fort Myers-Cape Coral region, it may create a less desirable choice for the Rays for spring training.
There will be a lot that will have to be taken into account when the Rays make this decision, which should be expected to come soon with spring training set to start in early to mid-February, but expect something much sooner as the Rays may begin to start planning and releasing tickets for sale to fans soon.