Oldsmar “still in the hunt” for new Rays stadium

Mayor Doug Bevis recently met with Tampa Bay Rays representatives regarding their plan to build a new baseball stadium in the city, and he said Oldsmar is still in the running for potential stadium sites.

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.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis recently met with representatives of the Tampa Bay Rays to discuss the city’s stadium concept. (Graphic courtesy of FSA, Inc.)

When word first got out that Mayor Doug Bevis was serious about bringing the Tampa Bay Rays to Oldsmar, people thought he was either joking or crazy. Or both.

But Bevis quickly proved that he was dead serious about the prospect of building a new stadium, along with a residential, retail, office and entertainment complex, on a 125-acre parcel located across the road from Tampa Bay Downs, and soon it could be the mayor enjoying the last laugh.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis.

Bevis revealed on Tuesday that he had a second meeting with representatives of the Rays at their Tropicana Field earlier this week, and although he said there was no official decision rendered, nor promises made, regarding the possible relocation of St. Petersburg’s Major League Baseball franchise, the mayor left from the sit-down confident that his city was still on the short list for potential sites.

“Bruce Haddock and myself and architect Francisco Semsch met with the Rays president, Bryan Auld, and (SVP of strategy and development) Melanie Lenz, about the 125 acres that we have in Oldsmar where…we’ve been talking with them about a possible location site,” Bevis said during his Mayor’s Minute.

“And without going into a lot of great detail—they were very open with us but asked us not to share some of the information—but I will tell you that our meeting was supposed to last thirty minutes and it lasted an hour and fifteen minutes.”

This Google Maps screenshot shows the area of a potential Rays stadium in Oldsmar, the vacant greenspace to the left of the Tampa Bay Downs racetrack.

This Google Maps screenshot shows the location for a potential Rays stadium in Oldsmar on 125 acres of vacant greenspace to the left of Tampa Bay Downs.

Bevis went on to describe the meeting, saying the Rays officials asked a lot of questions and gave the group some insights into the stadium selection process.

He also said the team’s representatives told them that they wouldn’t be wasting their time if they weren’t still under consideration for a potential new stadium location.

“They definitely said that Bruce’s time and my time and their time is very valuable and they wouldn’t have had this meeting if Oldsmar was still not in the hunt for a potential Rays location,” Bevis said. “So we’re excited about that.”

The mayor then related a funny side story about the visit, explaining that after they had to move their presentation from a boardroom overlooking centerfield to Lenz’s office across the hall, he immediately noticed Oldsmar’s Christmas card, depicting city officials wearing blue Tampa Bay Rays ballcaps, sitting square in the middle of the table.

“As we walked into the office, (Brian) said, ‘you’ll notice your card is the only Christmas card that is on the table,’” Bevis recalled. “And Melanie said, ‘yeah, that’s the only card I have on my table.’ So I don’t know if that’s an omen or not, but it was exciting.”

This picture of Oldsmar City officials was used on the 2016 city's holiday cards in a nod to the hopes of bringing the Tampa bay Rays to town.

This picture of Oldsmar officials in Tampa Bay Rays caps was used for the city’s 2016 holiday cards, a nod to their efforts to bring the Major League Baseball team to town.

Bevis added that whether the city gets the team or not, “something is going to go on that site no matter what at some point down the road. So we’d like to stick our finger in there.”

After the meeting, the mayor spoke about the very real possibility that Oldsmar is in the running to one day be the home of the Rays.

“I don’t know that there’s a short list yet, but I don’t think we’ve been eliminated for consideration yet like some other sites probably have been,” Bevis said by phone on Thursday, noting he has no idea what sites may have been eliminated.

“They told us they wouldn’t be wasting our time if they weren’t serious about our chances, so I think we’re still in the hunt,” he added. “Usually you don’t call a meeting to break up with someone! So we’ll have to wait and see what happens.”

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