Mayor's choice for Rays stadium raises concerns

The new possibility of the Tampa Bay Rays wanting to build a new stadium in Hillsborough County raises two concerns for county commission chairman Les Miller:  money and displacement. 

The former is easy to explain:  new stadiums, generally speaking, cost between 1/4 and 1/2 a billion dollars. 

"We want the Rays to stay no doubt," Miller told FOX 13 News Saturday.  "But we have to figure out a way to pay for it and not ask taxpayers to pay for a new stadium."

That challenge will dominate any stadium site the Rays might select in Hillsborough.

The second concern- displacement- arises in Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn's preferred location: a large parcel owned by a not-for-profit entity that operates the Tampa Park Plaza Apartments. 

At a news conference Friday, Buckhorn explained the advantages of dealing with a single landowner, the proximity of parking garages in both Ybor City and downtown Tampa, and extra acres to accommodate extra development outside a stadium. 

"Additional development...can be helpful in terms of financing it," Buckhorn said.  "On that Tampa Park Plaza parcel you could fit a stadium there and have a couple of good acres to redevelop around it."  He also described the property as "probably the best location."

Miller agreed the African-American community has been more impacted by previous development projects, and said he will be watching this one closely because Tampa Park Plaza is in his district. 

"If that's the number one place they're looking at and they're willing to put the money in there, where do we put those displaced people?" Miller asked.  "What kind of neighborhoods can we put them in where they can feel safe, they can feel like it's their home, we in this county can feel like we're doing the right thing for them?"

Buckhorn conceded relocating the current residents would be "government's" biggest issue.  At this point it is all speculative, because the Rays have yet to say what they are looking for in a new stadium location, and how they will go about evaluating possible locations.