To me, this said it all about the Rays' quest for a new home.
A local TV news reporter...not from my former home at Channel 10, and I won't say which station...was reporting on the Rays' choice of a new baseball stadium in Ybor City Thursday evening. While he was live from a Ybor residential area, in the background you could clearly see chickens roaming through the streets.
And that's it.
While Tampa tries valiantly to prove it belongs in the big leagues, both in sports and in business, there are still small farm animals flourishing near downtown.
In a lot of ways, we're still a sleepy southern town that's being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, no matter how Jeff Vinik tries to improve our future.
The Rays are committed...at least for now...to building a new baseball stadium on some depressed land between the Channelside District and Ybor City. I'll admit, it will take a good deal of vision and imagination to see a big league ballpark on that site...and around $700 million. I wanted to see a stunning, panoramic view of downtown Tampa somewhere from behind home plate in the new stadium, but I don't see that happening. Maybe someone will prove me wrong.
Finding the money is the big hurdle now. All sides...the Rays, City of Tampa, Hillsborough County...agree heavy public funding is off the table. Taxpayers don't want to spend a dime on a new stadium. That leaves Rays' owner Stuart Sternberg to kick in more than his public commitment of around $150 million...he'll have to...or the two sides will have to borrow out the wazoo. Or, and this is what the stadium players will focus on first, they'll seek more support from local businesses...some sort of public/private partnership to bankroll a stadium. That could take a year.
I wish them all luck. I wish I had several million dollars in the family vault, that I could contribute to the fund drive. What makes it harder is, we all know the Tampa Bay Area is not an affluent community. And we don't have the corporate headquarters other big cities have.
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So, we wait while the players in this multi-million-dollar game negotiate.
In the meantime, I would suggest this.
Change the name of the team.
No, don't dump the “Rays.” That, I like. What I'm thinking of is the “Tampa Bay.” It's been used for years for all of our major league franchises.
How about “Ybor City Rays?”
That would get some national discussion going. What is Ybor City? Where is Ybor City? You pronounce it how? It would separate us from the pack, making the Rays the only major league franchise to operate out of Ybor City.
So now, the latest episode of the Rays' quest for a new stadium, begins. It will continue to take awhile. Hopefully, someone with more vision than myself will take over this project. And keep the Ybor City Rays in Ybor.
Cover photo from Pixabay