Tampa Mayor Jane Castor says it’s time for Rays to make a choice: Tampa or St. Pete

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TAMPA — Mayor Jane Castor said Monday that she believes Ybor City is the ideal location for a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark.

Now she wants team officials to publicly show where they plan to build a new stadium in Tampa Bay.

“I think before long they’re going to have to come out and say, ‘This is where we want to be,’ because they never said that, in Pinellas or Hillsborough,” Castor said Tampa Bay Times. “We just have to keep going here.”

The mayor said she believes the former Kforce headquarters at E Palm Ave and Nuccio Parkway is the best place. This location was first reported by the Times in October, but the Rays have never publicly said they want to play there.

After Major League Baseball thwarted the team’s plan to split the season between Tampa Bay and Montreal, the Rays haven’t said much about what they plan to do next.

Castor said she hasn’t spoken to team officials in about a month. Meanwhile, St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch said his city is still in talks and has put Albert Whitted Airport on the city’s waterfront on the table as a possible landing spot for the Rays.

Castor said she saw renders of the Rays design for the Kforce site before the split-season concept was squashed. She was impressed by how the team integrated the ballpark’s design into Ybor’s architecture and atmosphere, similar to the Baltimore Orioles’ stadium, Camden Yards.

“You could compare it to a Camden Yards, you know, it feels like it’s always been there. It belonged in the neighborhood,” Castor said.

The Rays did not immediately respond to Castor’s comments on Monday.

Some have questioned whether the Kforce site is large enough for a year-round stadium, which would require a roof. Castor said the site could work if it builds vertically and uses a “rainbreak” type roof that doesn’t completely cover the stadium, similar to SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles that hosted this year’s Super Bowl.

But, the mayor said, it’s important to get some movement into the 15-year stadium saga. The Rays have a user agreement with St. Petersburg to play at Tropicana Field through the 2027 season.

The mayor, a former college basketball star at the University of Tampa, said the “shot clock is ticking” to close a deal in Tampa Bay.

“I don’t want this to become some kind of last minute crunch time. We need to use as many days as possible to carefully propose a location, a design and a price,” Castor said.

For now, she said, that’s up to the Rays, who she says need to come up with new plans and a price tag. Then the county, city, and Tampa Sports Authority can begin calculating how much public funding will be available.

When a $700 million midseason relay spot was still viable, Castor said city and county officials would have a financial package ready by around April 1. But with the Rays regrouping, that won’t happen, she said.

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But if the Rays decide to build in Tampa, Castor said, the public will be included in discussions about public funds. And the Rays need to build community support for the idea.

Could the Rays build elsewhere in Ybor? Finally, in 2018, they unveiled renders for an $892 million stadium near Adamo Drive.

Darryl Shaw owns the Kforce site and 50 hectare GasWorx development to the southeast. He said so recently Times that the previous location for a Rays stadium near Adamo Drive – which fell apart in 2018 – was still a possibility, but not his preference.

Shaw said part of GasWorx is now being planned for high-rise residential buildings.

“Technically, yes, it’s doable. But I’m considering what’s best for Ybor. People live here first and foremost… Expect a lot of units for this location. And I would hesitate to lose that,” Shaw said earlier this month.

Castor downplayed any St. Petersburg-Tampa competition for the team, but made her feelings clear.

“We’ve always said as long as they’re in the Tampa Bay area, it’s a win for everyone. But clearly it would be best to have them in our backyard,” she said.

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