A: The initial price tag is $450 million, and the Rays have committed to funding $150 million of the cost. They hope to get $30 million from the state and raise the rest of the money through the sale of the 85-acre Tropicana Field site, which would be redeveloped into a retail and residential complex. Rays officials vowed that they would not use any existing tax revenue or seek new tax revenue from St. Petersburg or Pinellas County. Q: Where will everyone park?
A: There is no on-site parking in the plans, but the Rays insist there will actually be more parking available than is currently the case at Tropicana Field. There are 12,000 publicly accessible spots downtown within a 15-minute walk of the Al Lang Field site and the Rays could build 5,000 overflow spots into the Trop site and run shuttles from there to the new ballpark. Q: What about the summer heat and humidity?
A: There's no way around it; weather will definitely be an issue. Rain shouldn't be a problem thanks to the retractable fabric roof that can be fully extended from its housing out to the 320-foot mast in center field in eight minutes. The plan is to keep the ballpark covered during the day to keep heat from building up and play most of the games at night. Team studies showed the new park would be "significantly" cooler than the Texas Rangers' outdoor ballpark in Arlington (the Rangers play nearly all of their home games at night, even on Sundays) and should be cooler than Atlanta's Turner Field. Q: What happens next?
A: Wednesday's unveiling was the start of what is sure to be a year-long marketing campaign as the team looks ahead to a referendum expected to go before St. Petersburg voters in November 2008. Any new downtown waterfront development other than parkland must be approved by the voters. In the meantime, the Rays (working through the city) will seek a developer for the Tropicana Field site. If the referendum is approved, construction on the new ballpark and redevelopment of the Trop site would begin in mid-2009. Retail and housing on the Trop site is scheduled to open in 2011 with work continuing for two more years after that, and the new ballpark would open in 2012. The Rays would continue to play at Tropicana Field through the 2011 season.
Q: Is there a chance the ballpark won't come to fruition? Q: Is there a chance the ballpark won't come to fruition?
A: Absolutely. The Rays were quick to acknowledge that it wouldn't be an easy process and plenty of work remains. A defeat in the referendum would kill it on the spot, and winning that vote is no sure thing even if the Rays aren't asking the public to put tax dollars toward the stadium. The project also would be in trouble of the sale of the Tropicana Field site doesn't fill the funding gap that currently exists, or if the Florida Legislature declines to provide the money the Rays are seeking. Marc Lancaster