Rays Consider Location Change to Ybor City

By: Kristen L. Wagner 

The Rays baseball team is considering moving their stadium to Ybor City, Tampa. The team’s current stadium is located in St. Petersburg.

Supporters of the new stadium believe that hosting games at a stadium in Ybor City would lead to an increase in fan-base. A few students from The University of Tampa would agree that the stadium in Ybor City would be easier to attend. 

“I would definitely go to more baseball games if the stadium was in Ybor,” said CJ Hills, math major. “The drive to St. Petersburg is too long to fit into my busy schedule, but going to Ybor City would take practically no time at all.”

The new stadium is expected to have 25,000 seats, a likely capacity of 35,000, and a closer proximity to popular Tampa attractions like Armature Works and the Channelside District. 

This proposition is not a new one. The idea to move the Rays stadium to Tampa has been up in the air for years. 

According to the Tampa Bay Times, “The proposed corridors would link the ballpark to two popular spots on the downtown Riverwalk: Armature Works and the Channel District. They will be completed by 2025, according to the city.”

The team doesn’t have a deal in place yet to move from St. Petersburg, where they’ve played since 1998, to Tampa. But the accelerating discussions about access improvements and infrastructure that would make it easier to get fans in the seats underscore how serious the team is about moving across the bay.

City leaders have long wanted to increase mobility options between downtown and Ybor, Tampa Heights and the Channel District. Former Mayor Bob Buckhorn talked often about creating a seamless circle of activity and development around downtown. And Castor has made mobility one of her top priorities since taking office in 2019

Although the idea was scrapped in 2018, authoritative figures involved in the matter are persistent in saying that it was never completely off the table.

The Rays have considered a location change to Montreal, and with an Ybor City location, it would keep them in Tampa for at least half of the season.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Guiliana Zerpa, allied health major. “Ybor City is fairly accessible for students, and I know that a fair population of the student body would be interested in attending games.”

The team periodically meets with elected officials and community leaders on both sides of the bay and the meetings allow the Rays to provide direct information on the split season idea.

The stadium could be located in Ybor City to increase fan-base and then, once the team’s fan-base grows, the team would have the funds to build an even larger stadium.

There are no details about the hypothetical stadium, but the idea is popular among commissioners. Either way, the Ybor City location is believed to be a positive addition.

“I don’t have a car, I don’t even have a license,” said Roma Vrijhof. “I could easily bike to Ybor City to attend a baseball game, but you can’t really bike to St. Pete.”

The potential increase in fanbase certainly isn’t limited to college students, but it has been proven to be a solid foundation to target.

Many important figures in the city of Tampa hope to keep baseball in the area. A Rays stadium in Ybor City would contribute to the city’s past with baseball, and is expected to increase the attraction to the team.

Their current lease keeps them in St. Petersburg through 2027. The official plan has not been announced and it is unknown if the Ybor City stadium is set in stone.

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