Oldsmar mayor goes all-in on Rays proposal

For years, Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis has had a vision of brining the Tampa Bay Rays to his town at the top of Old Tampa Bay. On Thursday, Bevis gave a detailed presentation of how to make that dream a reality.

A conceptual rendering of the potential new Tampa Bay rays stadium in Oldsmar was presented by Mayor Doug Bevis and architect Francisco Semsch at a press conference on Thursday. Credit: FHA, Inc.

A conceptual rendering of the potential new Tampa Bay Rays stadium site in Oldsmar was presented by Mayor Doug Bevis and architect Francisco Semsch at a press conference in the Council Chambers on Thursday. Credit: FSA, Inc.

In the same year Oldsmar is celebrating its 100th birthday, Mayor Doug Bevis is going all-in with a move that could define the city’s second century.

On Thursday afternoon, Bevis and architect Francisco Semsch gave a detailed presentation of the plan to bring the Tampa Bay Rays to Oldsmar, complete with a PowerPoint present-ation, 3D animation and good old fashioned graphic images, facts and figures.

And while some originally wrote off Bevis’ idea as a mere pipe dream, the quality of the presentation, combined with the obvious time and effort that has gone into researching the topic, now has many people thinking the prospect of moving a Major League Baseball team to a bedroom community at the top of Old Tampa Bay might not be so far-fetched after all.

“We really appreciate the effort, and sharing it with us, as we continue to do our due diligence in regards to potential stadium sites,” Tampa Bay Rays Vice President of Operations Rick Nafe said after the hour-long presentation in the Oldsmar City Council Chambers.

“It’s too early to compare it to the other plans—in fact, this is one of the earliest submissions we’ve received so far—but it’s got some interesting facets to it. I can’t wait to get into it a little deeper and explore it further.”

A conceptual rendering of the potential new Tampa Bay rays stadium in Oldsmar was presented by Mayor Doug Bevis and architect Francisco Semsch at a press conference on Thursday. Credit: FHA, Inc.

A conceptual rendering of the potential new Tampa Bay Rays stadium site in Oldsmar. The site, located on 120 acres on Race Track Road across from Tampa Bay Downs, would also feature shopping, retail and entertainment options as well as three office towers. Credit: FSA, Inc.

Some of the aspects of the proposal that caught Nafe’s attention include the potential connectivity of the stadium, which would be located on part of a 120-acre parcel of vacant land opposite Tampa Bay Downs on Race Track Road, to future transportation modes such as high speed rail, as well as the ability to potentially secure funding from both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Oldsmar Mayor Dog Bevis (r) and Tampa architect Francisco Semsch presented their plans to bring the Tampa Bay Rays to Oldsmar on Thursday.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis (r) and Tampa architect Francisco Semsch presented their plans to bring the Tampa Bay Rays to Oldsmar at a press conference on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016.

In outlining his plan, Bevis addressed six criteria team officials have set for any community that hopes to be the future home of the Rays: regional connectivity; site accessibility; site geometry; developmental readiness; catalysts for development; and local authenticity.

The mayor believes his city meets or exceeds many of these criteria, thanks to its centralized location and proximity to two international airports; five major hotel chains, as well as a wide selection of retail, dining and recreational options, within a five-mile radius of the stadium site; the potential for future development in the surrounding vicinity, such as the proposed $50 million mixed-use project slated for State Street; as well as future accessibility via a CSX rail station, commuter buses and feeder bus services.

“Eighty-seven thousand cars a day travel down Tampa Road, and I imagine a lot of those 87,000 cars aren’t going to be coming here for a game, they will already be here and will be going to the game,” Bevis said during a Q&A session at the end of the presentation. “We’re used to the traffic.”

According to Semsch, a Tampa based architect who has worked on many Oldsmar projects, the stadium project will not only benefit the city of Oldsmar and its citizens, but it would have a positive effect on many communities throughout the Tampa Bay area.

“It’s a great opportunity. This will have other benefits for the community,” he said during the Q&A.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis answers questions from the media about his plan to bring the Tampa Bay Rays to his town following a press conference on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis answers questions from the media about his plan to bring the Tampa Bay Rays to his town following a press conference on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016.

“Two things will be impacted positively: the Rays understand the traffic concerns, and they will come up with solutions to it, and then we will have a mass transit system. And we want to cultivate local groups and bring large companies to the area. We see everything positive.”

While Semsch and Bevis are extremely positive about their proposal, they realize the idea of brining the Rays to Oldsmar isn’t a guaranteed home run.

Obstacles need to be overcome, such as people unfamiliar with the area learning where the heck Oldsmar is, and the details of the all-important dual county funding have yet to be hashed out.

But according to the mayor, in a city that was founded 100 years ago by one of America’s great automotive pioneers, Ransom E. Olds, thinking big comes naturally in this city.

If Oldsmar Mayor Doug bevis has his way, Major League Baseball's Tampa Bay Rays could be calling his city home in the near future.

If Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis has his way, Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays could be calling his city home in the near future. Credit: FHS, Inc.

“Everything starts with a vision,” Bevis said after the press conference. “Historically that’s how Oldsmar has thought—the way the town looks today is because of a vision.”

“Something is going to happen on that property,” he added, noting officials for the racetrack are determined to add a shopping/dining/entertainment district in the area. “If you take the stadium out of it, something is still going to happen there.”

“My thinking is, why not this? Dream big or go home!”

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