Rays president says team will evaluate Ybor option

The Tampa Bay Rays' president says the team has not made any decisions on possible locations for a new stadium but will evaluate the Ybor City site identified by Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan.

Hagan said the land between Channelside and Ybor City could lure the team from St. Petersburg.

In a statement, Rays President Brian Auld said, “This is another important step in the site selection process, and we are grateful for the time and attention that went into making it a possibility. We look forward to getting to work evaluating this option, along with those in Pinellas County including the Tropicana Field site, as a potential future home for Rays Baseball in Tampa Bay for generations to come.”

It’s no secret that the Rays, along with Major League Baseball, prefer a new stadium site in Tampa, closer to the center of the fanbase.  But with large plots of land around Tampa becoming harder to find, questions about the team’s future have remained.

Hagan tells FOX 13's Aaron Mesmer that a group of property owners has agreed to pool resources on a 14-acre site not far from the Port of Tampa.  The proposed site is bounded by Channelside Drive on the west, 4th Avenue on the north, 15th Street on the east, and Adamo Drive on the south.

It’s within the Channelside-Ybor corridor rumored to be a favorite of the team and Tampa civic leaders, and not far from Water Street Tampa, a planned overhaul of Channelside being directed by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinick.

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"It's right in the heart of Ybor's historic district and it's at the gateway to Channelside," Hagan said. "It has significant advantages and potential not only for a state of the art ballpark, but it will also catalyze significant economic development in the area."

Hagan called the deal a "significant milestone," but Auld's statement makes the Rays' future less solid.

Details about Hagan's plan -- from transportation and parking details to funding for a project that could run $600-million or more -- were not released.

The team’s lease with the city of St. Petersburg ties them to Tropicana Field until 2027, but the city did agree to a potential buyout option early last year.  That buyout would be as high as $24-million if the Rays left the county, with reduced amounts if they stayed in St. Pete.

The Rays have nine months to decide whether they want to move to the Ybor location. If they choose not to or no decision is made, the county will lose rights to the property.

"[The Rays] have not publicly made that decision yet. I believe that very soon that they will announce that this is their preferred location as well," Hagan said.

In response to Hagan's announcement, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman Tweeted, "Confident the Rays will be playing #BaseballForever in St. Pete. Hills. County has a long way to go. Regardless, St. Pete comes out on top."