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Hillsborough seeks to keep Rays stadium pitch on table

Plans for a new stadium in Ybor City for Major League Baseball team the Tampa Bay Rays may not be dead in the water after the Hillsborough County Commission opted not to disband the working group for the project.

The Rays last month opted to abandon a project for a new stadium dubbed the most intimate ballpark in MLB. The headline feature of the Populous-designed ballpark was a translucent roof accounting for 30 per cent of the project cost and fully enclosing the facility.

The stadium would have had 28,216 fixed seats and a total capacity of 30,842. It was projected to cost $892m (£692m/€778m) and had been earmarked for completion on Opening Day of the 2023 MLB season.

However, the team was forced to abandon the project after the plans stalled significantly. Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said at the time that the team would not request an extension of a three-year window with the City of St. Petersburg to explore alternative ballpark sites to its current Tropicana Field home. The window expired on December 31.

The Rays maintained they were committed to finding a new home in the local area despite admitting they are at “two strikes” following the abandonment of the Ybor City project.

The Tampa Bay Times newspaper has now reported that a motion to officially disband the working group set up in 2014 to take the team to Tampa has lost. Commissioners felt that the disbanding of the group would officially end any chance the team had of moving to the new state-of-the-art facility.

Hillsborough commissioner Ken Hagan, who headed the working group, said: “If we ever want to preserve, or if we ever intend on having an opportunity to negotiate with the team again, it’s extremely important and sensitive to send a strong signal to not only the Rays but to Major League Baseball that we have board solidarity with respect to this issue.

“It’s a very delicate and sensitive situation that I don’t think is going to be resolved any time soon.”

The team’s lease at Tropicana Field is due to expire after the 2027 season. Earlier this month, the Rays revealed plans to scale back capacity at the ballpark through a new series of capital improvements and renovations which they claim will enhance the fan experience at the stadium.

Image: Populous