The Tampa Bay Rays have been searching for a new stadium location for more than a year.
Hillsborough County officials unveiled a new stadium proposal yesterday that would see the Tampa Bay Rays relocate to a site near downtown Tampa, potentially squashing Oldsmar officials’ dreams of bringing the team to town.
The announcement by Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagen, who has been the point person for the stadium search, stated a group of property owners pooled their resources to secure a 14-acre parcel in the Channelside section of Tampa, not far from the Port of Tampa and the popular historic entertainment district, Ybor City, for the new stadium.
The news was met with caution by Rays officials, with team resident Brian Auld releasing the following statement:
Statement on the latest stadium proposal from Tampa Bay Rays team president Brian Auld.
Here in Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis, who first went on record about wanting to bring the Rays to town in February 2016, downplayed the latest news.
“The statement the Rays put out was like, ‘thanks for the input, we’ll think about it, but we’re still thinking about the Pinellas and St. Pete offers, too,'” Bevis told Oldsmar Connect by phone on Wednesday.
Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis.
“People read into it what they want—like, ‘they have a stadium rendering!’ Well guess what? So do we!”
“When they say Pinellas, I have to believe they’re talking about us, and maybe the Derby Lane site, he added, noting, “I haven’t heard directly from them, but based on that statement, I’d say it’s not a done deal.”
Bevis has been a major proponent of bringing the Major League Baseball team to town for several years.
“I’ve spent the past two years pimping this idea, and no one really took me seriously,” he told Oldsmar Connect last February.
“But once the St. Pete City Council allowed the Rays to talk to other communities, (then City Manager) Bruce (Haddock) and I began putting the feelers out that we wanted to be considered.”
The city enlisted a local architect to come up with a site plan that featured an entertainment, office, residential and retail complex surrounding a 30,000-seat stadium on a 120-acre parcel of land across from Tampa Bay Downs.
A conceptual rendering of the proposed development of 120 acres across from Tampa Bay Downs includes a 30,000-seat baseball stadium as well as office, entertainment, residential and hotel space. (Graphic courtesy FSA, Inc.)
But despite being considered a finalist for the stadium site by Hagen and team officials, the mayor’s dream began to die as residents raised questions about the proposal and Bevis’ fellow local lawmakers called for an end to the city’s pursuit when it became apparent the city was not a serious contender to land the team.
“I hate to be the one to say this, but I don’t think anybody is going to be surprised by it: we’re not getting the Rays,” Council member Eric Seidel said in April after it was reported the Rays were considering a proposal to remain in St. Pete.
“I think it’s been great for the city, I applaud our efforts, but I also think it might be becoming a distraction…and I am in favor of us having a discussion about suspending our efforts to try to bring the Rays here to the City of Oldsmar.”
Oldsmar officials were so gung-ho about brining the Tampa Bay Rays to town they posed in team caps for their annual holiday card photo in 2016.
Bevis admitted at the time the chances of landing the team were slim, but he refused to completely give up hope.
“We always knew we were an outside shot, but we felt we had a shot,” he said. “Now the ball is in their field.”
The Tampa Bay Rays are looking for a new stadium to replace Tropicana Field.
Today, on the heels of this latest news, the mayor is remaining cautiously optimistic about seeing the Rays playing in Oldsmar one day.
“I think the comments by the Rays clearly indicate it’s not a done deal in Tampa, and that’s good for us,” he said.
“They keep trying to push the Oldsmar card out of the deck, but it keeps popping up.”
He then used a timely, and humorous, analogy to illustrate his city’s chances.
“I was at Octoberfest last weekend watching the wiener dog races and after one race started, two dogs slammed into each other and the other one came out of the pack to win,” he said.
“Who knows, maybe Oldsmar will end up being that winning dog?!”