Rays' Proposed Ballpark Includes Translucent Roof, Smaller Capacity
The Rays yesterday "unveiled a design for an Ybor City ballpark with huge windows that would open to let in a breeze and a translucent roof topped by a distinctive wing-like canopy," according to a front-page piece by Frago, O'Donnell, Topkin & Danielson of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. The Rays would not say "how much the team intends to contribute" to the reported $892M cost. A number of local elected officials said that taxpayers "won't be footing the enormous cost." Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said that with "little public appetite to pay for a ballpark with taxes, elected leaders will have to find 'creative ways' to fund the project." Tampa City Council member Mike Suarez, who is running for mayor, said, "I love the ballpark. I think it looks terrific. The price tag? I'm not sure where the money is going to come from." Despite financing doubts, there was "plenty of optimism" at a press conference for the renderings. Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce Chair Steve Bernstein said, "I haven't seen a buzz like this in quite a while." Already, one potential sponsor has "committed to 'founders level' support" of $1M a year and others are "'in play' for a similar commitments" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 7/11).
COST OF DOING BUSINESS: In Tampa, Frago, O'Donnell, Topkin & Danielson note the ballpark itself is "projected to cost" $809M, and "related infrastructure" is pegged at $83M. The cost of the ballpark "includes one of its standout features, a translucent roof expected to cost" almost $245M. The proposed ballpark "will seat 28,216 people," and adding standing areas will put total capacity at 30,842. That would be the "fewest seats" of any MLB venue. By comparison, the "latest configuration of Tropicana Field ... is 31,042." Populous "worked with the Rays to design" the proposed ballpark, which "includes these elements: see-through sliding glass walls, a fixed translucent roof and architectural features -- such as a brick facade -- that would integrate the stadium into its surroundings in Tampa's historic Latin district." The ballpark is about 900,000 square feet, and the team said that it would be "available for public use year-round." Rays officials said that they are shooting to have the ballpark "ready to open" by the start of the '23 season. That would "require construction to begin" by spring '20 (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 7/11). Rays Chief Development Officer Melanie Lenz said that in coming up with the translucent roof, the team "spent more than nine months on climate analysis" (BRADENTON.com, 7/10).
BELLS & WHISTLES: In Tampa, Marc Topkin in a front-page piece writes the design elements unveiled are "dramatic and eye-catching, following the basic coda to 'bring the outside in.'" What the Rays showed "sure looked promising," with glass exterior walls, with sections that will "slide open, like giant French doors, behind home plate and centerfield, offering views of Ybor City to one side and the downtown skyline to the other." The translucent roof is "higher, less opaque and without the underpinnings and dreaded catwalks" of Tropicana Field. Concepts for "multi-tiered seating and gathering spots," 17 of them, that include fountain, picnic and sandbox areas. It is going to be a "big yard," around 5-10% bigger than Tropicana Field's outfield (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 7/11).
WORTH THE COMMITMENT? In Tampa, John Romano writes the question that must be addressed is whether Tampa wants to "be in the business" of MLB. The cost of "remaining a big-league market can be hefty," and some would say that the "cost of losing a Major League team is hefty as well." Romano: "I'm not saying the Rays are on the verge of leaving any time soon. In fact, I'd be stunned if MLB would open itself to the lawsuit that St. Petersburg would file if the Rays tried to vacate the market before 2027." But "membership typically comes at a high price," and Tampa now "has a better idea of that price, and must decide whether it wants to pay" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 7/11). Also in Tampa, Martin Fennelly wrote he wants baseball in Tampa, as he has not "forgotten what it was like before baseball was here." Fennelly: "I have no idea if we're a baseball town. Rays playoff runs didn't do the trick. ... Do you want this?" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 7/11).