10Investigates' Noah Pransky has followed the Tampa Bay Rays' stadium saga for nearly 10 years.
The Rays unveiled artist renderings for their proposed $809 million stadium in Ybor City on July 10. Along with "necessary infrastructure," the total cost would be $892 million.
As the possibility of getting a new stadium gets closer, we wanted to look back at how we got here.
Spring 2008: Team moves forward with plans for new stadium, which would require voter approval to build on city’s waterfront. Sale of Tropicana Field land, redevelopment money, and $150 million from team owner Stu Sternberg would cover $450 million price tag.
June 25, 2008: Rays back out of plan to go to ballot in fall, with it seemingly more and more likely question would be defeated.
2009: St. Pete commissions “A Baseball Community” group, better known as the “ABC Coalition” of leaders from both sides of Tampa Bay to examine what’s best for the future of baseball in St. Pete. The group spends more than a year and concludes a new ballpark somewhere between the “Gateway” region of Mid-Pinellas and Downtown Tampa would be the best location to increase attendance at games.
June 21, 2010: Rays owner Stu Sternberg holds a press conference to deliver an ultimatum the Rays need permission to explore all new stadium sites around Tampa Bay, or else they won't consider any new stadium sites around Tampa Bay. At the time, the team’s contract with St. Pete prohibited it from looking outside city limits.
November 2010: Discussion about a new Rays stadium typically revolves around locations the team could play, but Noah Pransky writes the most important conversation is one being ignored: how the stadium will be paid for. Land isn't the problem in Rays' Stadium Saga; funding is
Oct. 11, 2011: Minutes after the Tampa Bay Rays were sent home from the playoffs for the second straight year by the Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay owner Stuart Sternberg expressed his disappointment in the local support for the club, reiterating that the franchise's future in the area is in an untenable situation.
Oct. 1, 2014: Once again, the Hillsborough County Commission tried to prepare itself for a possible new Rays stadium, even though the city of St. Petersburg did not give the team nor the county permission to interfere with its contract.
July 2015: Hillsborough County's lead negotiator, Ken Hagan, points to the Braves’ controversial deal outside Atlanta as a “template” for the Rays’ negotiations. The deal was cut behind-closed-doors and cost Cobb Co. taxpayers more than $400 million.
January 2016: St. Petersburg finally grants the Rays permission to explore Tampa stadium sites, giving the team three years to give a final answer. Some critics in St. Pete voice concern the agreement could weaken the city's otherwise ironclad contract through 2027 with the team.
October 2017: The Rays finish a third straight season with the lowest home attendance in MLB, as several Tampa Bay-area politicians and columnists suggest a new stadium can be built without public subsidies. In response, 10Investigates put together a guide as to how those "not public subsidies" really are public subsidies.
November 2017: 10Investigates exposes how Commissioner Hagan may not be properly saving records regarding stadium negotiations. Hillsborough commissioners fail to follow own guidance on phones, public records
Feb. 9, 2018: The Rays announced publicly their selection of an Ybor City site. But the financing of a stadium remains a giant mystery, with few public or private funds available for stadium construction.
July 9, 2018: If Hillsborough County's elected leaders and developers can't find hundreds of millions of dollars to get the Tampa Bay Rays to move to Ybor City, the team may find similar revenues simply by staying put in St. Pete. Mayor Rick Kriseman told 10Investigates developers are anxious to redevelop the 86 acres on which Tropicana Field and its expansive parking lots currently sit, and the Rays get half the revenue as long as they are a tenant.
July 10, 2018: The Rays release renderings of their proposed $892 million Ybor City stadium. There is still no plan how to pay for it.
Oct. 1, 2018: As the Tampa Bay Rays finish another season toward the bottom of the MLB attendance rankings, 10Investigates breaks the news the team is purchasing the Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer club, as well as the team's control of Al Lang Stadium on the St. Petersburg waterfront.
Nov. 6, 2018: Election Day brought two new commissioners to Hillsborough County's board. Based on previous stadium-related comments, the new commissioners may make it harder for the Rays to secure public financing in Hillsborough.
Nov. 16, 2018: Just days after Hillsborough commissioners were told there would be no new ballpark updates until after the team's Dec. 31 deadline to inform St. Petersburg of its future, the head of a local stadium booster group says he believes a deal will get done by the end of the year. He says federal subsidies may be the biggest piece of the funding pie.
Nov. 18, 2018: 10Investigates exposes how Commissioner Ken Hagan refused to turn over public records, detailing the location of the Ybor stadium, while developer Darryl Shaw (a Hagan campaign donor) was able to benefit from the inside information. 10Investigates later confirms Shaw is one of the major investors in the Tampa Bay Times.
Nov. 26, 2018: Developer Darryl Shaw spoke to 10Investigates after viewers expressed concern the Tampa Bay Times wasn’t sufficiently scrutinizing the Ybor City stadium negotiations, of which Shaw is the primary landowner.
Dec. 4, 2018: Hillsborough County will shift oversight of the Rays discussion over to the Tampa Sports Authority, which could raise questions about the stadium-related profits one of its board members stands to make.
Dec. 5, 2018: The Tampa Bay Rays need to give St. Petersburg notice of its future plans by Dec. 31. Hillsborough County said it would need needs three or four more months.
Dec. 11, 2018: Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg announced the MLB franchise would not be able to finalize plans to build a nearly $900 million stadium in Ybor City before the team's three-year window to find a new site expires in just weeks.
Interactive Timeline: Tap here to see 10Investigates' coverage of the Rays' stadium saga
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