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Thursday, Jul 19, 2018
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Much riding on Rays’ Ybor City ballpark design

TAMPA – The more than decade-long stadium drama that surrounds the Tampa Bay Rays will enter a new phase today when Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg unveils the design of the ballpark the team wants built in Ybor City.

The architect drawings, which will be unveiled at a private media event in Ybor,  will reveal what kind of roof — retractable or translucent dome — and the capacity of the stadium.

But just as much attention will be focused on how much a shiny new ballpark will cost. Sternberg is expected to announce the price tag of the project but not how much the team is willing to contribute.

Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg

Estimates for a new ballpark have ranged from $600 million to upward of $800 million. Local leaders have said that paying for that by raising sales or property taxes is not an option.

Business and community leaders touting the project are hoping that an innovative looking ballpark will kickstart support from both the public and the business community.

On top of that, team officials set architectural firm Populous the lofty goal of coming up with a next-generation ballpark that will be a community destination even when it's not game day.

The event will be attended by many of Hillsborough County's business and political leaders, including Commissioner Ken Hagan and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who have led the push for the team to move across Tampa Bay.

Tampa Council members Mike Suarez, Luis Viera and Guido Maniscalco also plan to attend.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn

Buckhorn said Monday the announcement was part of a process to arrive at a deal and that renderings will make the possibility of an Ybor City stadium more concrete.

"It's about creating and developing a buzz around this and to get some community buy-in," he said. "Folks want to see it and imagine it. It makes the job of building support that much easier."

Team officials have already provided a few insights as to what they want in the design. Among the ideas floated are that the ballpark serve as a community park. The team's fitness center could double as a wellness program for the University of South Florida, and its kitchens host culinary classes.

Fans should also expect a smaller stadium. Team officials have talked about right-sizing the ballpark so the capacity may not match the roughly 42,000 seats of Tropicana Field. That likely means there won't be a 360-degrees upper deck although there could be additional tiers behind home plate.

The ballpark's exterior may include a tip of the hat to Ybor City's century-old Cuban and Italian social clubs and iconic balconies and brick exteriors. Rays Chief Development Officer Melanie Lenz and a three-member stadium design team toured Ybor City in April to experience the neighborhood's historic architecture firsthand.

The team is scheduled to release the design at 2 p.m.  Follow the developments in a Facebook Live we'll have from the announcement.

Contact Christopher O'Donnell at [email protected] or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.

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