Ybor City residents, businesses want to play ball with the Rays

Ybor City residents and businesses are in favor of relocating to a proposed spot in the southern part of the neighborhood.

TAMPA, Fla. – Ybor City wants the Tampa Bay Rays to become their neighbor.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan unceremoniously divulged the proposed location Tuesday, a 14-acre area on the south side of the area. 

While there is no current deal to relocate the team, residents and business owners are excited about the idea.

“Close to Ybor. Everything here, this is the place, you know?” Tyler Smith said.

It wasn’t an easy thing for Smith to admit. He lives in St. Petersburg, where the Rays currently play.

Most of those who work and live around Ybor City believe the idea is a home run. 

“It fits with all the baseball stadiums that are going up these days. On the waterfront, the downtown in the background,” said Tim Sheridan, who works in the area.

The location along Adamo Drive and 15th Street does seem like a natural fit, say proponents, adding that it pull together Channelside, Ybor City and downtown Tampa.

“You know, the timing of the announcement was a little odd,” said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who was surprised by the location announcement.

Buckhorn, like many others, also wonder where $500 million will come from to build it. He expects a stadium with a smaller footprint and surrounded by private development.

“You know, increased retailing, increased residential,” he said. “Increased hotel. Increase commercial development that will occur around this. Which potentially could help pay for some of this.”

No matter what the Rays decide, Tampa taxpayers should not have to pay to finance a new stadium, Buckhorn said. While the city would like to keep the Rays in the region, officials have to be prepared to walk away from any deal that doesn't make good financial sense, he said. 

Area businesses owners like the idea, but only if the stadium is a community asset, not a 14-acre eyesore when the Rays aren’t playing. 

“So, for example, is it going to be a park? Are they going to have tours? Is it going to add to the neighborhood? That's what I expect it to do,” said Roberto Torres, who owns the Blind Tiger Café.

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