The Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday unveiled an elaborate plan for a new domed stadium that would take them across Tampa Bay to the Ybor City section of Tampa at a cost of nearly $900 million.
The 30,842-seat stadium would be the smallest in Major League Baseball and would be covered by a fully enclosed and translucent roof, not a retractable dome.
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Stuart Sternberg, principal owner of the Rays since 2005, called the plan "a dramatic break from the past" and explained the blueprint as the franchise's latest attempt to make a long-term commitment to the region.
"That has the best opportunity to happen here in Tampa, at the center of the Tampa Bay region," Sternberg said. "We believe that baseball cannot only survive but thrive here in Tampa, and Tampa Bay, and all the growth that comes ahead of us."
The Rays have consistently ranked near the bottom in attendance at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, about 20 miles away from the proposed new site. The Ybor City site is bordered by Channelside Drive on the west, 15th Street on the east, 4th Avenue on the north and Adamo Drive on the south.
No plans were revealed about stadium financing. The Rays, now in their 21st season in the American League, made the presentation partly to solicit corporate support.
"The test is when people see this," explained Matt Silverman, the club's president. "If people are getting behind this vision for how our ballpark can look and see how it can feed into Ybor City, if we're on the same page there, we have a better shot at figuring out the plans."
Melanie Lenz, the Rays' chief development officer, calculated the "total project cost" as $892,429,823, 30 percent of which applies to the roof.
Sternberg has said he expects to play at Tropicana Field for at least four or five more years, and a best-case scenario for the opening of the new ballpark would be 2023.
"I think you're looking at a four-to-five-year buildup, 36 months on the construction side," Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn said. "Will we live or die based on whether we have this stadium? No. We're going to be fine with or without it, but I would love to have it."
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