Hillsborough County Sets March Deadline For Rays Ballpark Deal
Hillsborough County (Fla.) Administrator Mike Merrill has "laid down the terms and deadline for striking a deal" to build a new $900M Rays ballpark in Ybor City, according to a front-page piece by Charlie Frago of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. If the Rays do not agree to the county's terms within the next three months, Merrill yesterday said that there "will be no ballpark in Ybor City -- and no Major League baseball team in Tampa." Merrill: "If we can't come up with term sheet by March of next year we're basically done anyway." He added that the county's pitch to the team promises a "financing deal largely made up of private dollars -- a potentially ground-breaking proposal" for MLB ballparks that are "typically built with public dollars." Frago notes if the Rays "don't agree to to the county's framework by Jan. 1, and if a binding agreement isn't struck" by the end of '19 Spring Training, it "won't happen." Merrill said he "hadn't yet heard" from Rays execs or Owner Stu Sternberg about the county's offer. Frago notes a "key player in the effort" is Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who also "leaves office on May 1." Merrill said if an Ybor City ballpark "doesn't materialize" by then, it "probably never will" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 12/6).