‘Prepared to negotiate’: Hillsborough unfazed after St. Pete chooses Rays redevelopment plans for Tropicana
TAMPA, Fla. - Negotiators trying to bring a stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays to Hillsborough County say they are unfazed by Monday's announcement that St. Petersburg chose the team's proposed plan for redeveloping the Tropicana Field location.
"Their attendance would be much higher, and the revenue generated would be much higher and much greater in Tampa and Hillsborough County," said Hillsborough Commissioner Ken Hagan.
He said he was impressed by the renderings of the 30,000 seat stadium, the mixed-use neighborhood around it and the image of a Florida Museum of African American History.
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Hagan acknowledges the Rays might get a better deal in the short term thanks to their redevelopment rights on the Tropicana land.
But, the Rays did say there are still many hurdles to signing in St. Pete.
"We made a decision that we were not going to get into a bidding war with St. Pete," said Hagan. "We simply said ‘hey, determine what you think is going to happen there. We will be prepared to negotiate when the time is right.’"
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The Rays have looked at locations in Hillsborough County before, including in Ybor City and at a new development slated for Channelside, but public funding sources are less obvious.
"Since we last provided an offer in 2019, costs have increased," said Hagan. "You are probably looking at a two to three hundred million dollar increase in the cost of the ballpark."
Hagan said Hillsborough will be meeting regularly with Rays officials. But the Rays now say the recent growth in St. Pete and the Tampa Bay area make Tampa's population advantage less important. Hagan doesn't agree.
"They have significant interest in being in Tampa," Hagan said. "They will maximize their revenue to be here. They are going to go down a dual path as we move forward, as smart business people should."
One thing he will say for the announcement in St. Pete: Tampa Bay is a step closer to keeping baseball.