Lone Pinellas Site Perfect for Rays Stadium

For years during my many roadtrips to and from Tampa, Florida back towards Pinellas County and St. Petersburg my eyes have always seemd to focus towards this dense and swampy parcel of land just outside my passenger window always questioning why some developer had not previously built something amazing on this prime real estate parcel.  And it simply astonished me that this parcel of tall grass was not being held vacant because of the salt water intrusion or the mangroves thickets lining the southern most edges of the parcel, but for some other cosmic solution. 

Sure I had seen a few scattered rental communities and office buildings spring up just off this uneven and water-soaked parcel, but even with the distant encroachment of modern civilization, this one huge pact of land has remained pretty consistant and dormant for several decades. And even as I stare quickly scanning this large parcel, my wild imagination used to rush a bit and tried to envision what could one day be built upon this land and maybe  become a welcoming beacon of this community to any traveler cruising Southbound on I-275 just beyond the Ulmerton Road and 9th Street exit ramps towards the hamlets of mid Pinellas County or St. Petersburg.

Why had this massive singular parcel with stood the rush of greed and money and had somehow been sparred by the decades of real estate speculation and explosions to remain clear and free of development? Had there been a wise or (hopefully) missed decision by someone stuck somewhere within an office building without windows to not build, sell or even excavate and level this lush green segment just off the southern tip of the Howard Franklin bridge. Was it held instead by a sly developer or real estate mastermind for the future, and an endeavor of great magnitude unforseen by the region’s citizens for so long.

Could someone had visualized so far into the past that this same parcel could one day  be the site of a great architectural symbol of this Florida region built upon its sandy soil and forever be known throughout the  baseball world for its construction on this very site? That it would house the benchmark in green technology and also embrace the surrounding mangroves and oyster beds to showcase that man and nature could co-exsist, even with the intrusion of sports just beyond the tide pools?

And maybe it was a blessing that finally on Monday, the A Baseball Community (ABC) coalition began to finally bring to light some of their year long discussions and meetings to finalize their detailed report to the local Tampa Bay communities on the future of  Major League Baseball and the Tampa Bay Rays franchise in this area. And it was real big surprise to me and maybe most of Tampa Bay, that two out of the three recommended locales for a stadium were within the confines of Hillsborough County.  

It really did not surpise me in the least that the lone plot of land even being considered for a recommendation by the ABC Coalition on the Pinellas side of the bridge was this lone sandlot of land that might have been held for just this purpose in hindsight. That the miracle that this plot did not go under the blades of a bulldozer or excavator before now is simple unimaginable to me. And for the sake of total honest here, this same parcel of soil was my personal choice for the building of a baseball stadium site back in the late 1980’s when the discussion first came up for the site of the then Florida Suncoast Dome/Thunderdome/Tropicana Field.

Finally it is so wild that this little preserved parcel of land might some day  might be considered to produce the centerpiece building or stae-of-the-art facility this region has been seeking for the Rays and this community as a whole for so long. And it is still a bit mindboggling to me that this parcel of land has stood the test of time and is still standing here, undeveloped and might just prove to be the perfect location to make both sides of the bay again embrace baseball with a open arms from both sides of the pristine blue Tampa Bay waters.

It is simply unimaginable that at this very location lies some great infrastructural groundwork already being done to improve the area’s roads and provide additional external ramps for future usage.  That this parcel might neeed a bit more subtle tweaking and upgrading compared to the other two sites to take on the extra burden of game day traffic and even ground transport to and from all points around Tampa Bay. This parcel of land sits smack in the middle of a ever growing section of Pinellas County that can support such a complex being built on this site, and should flourish beyond present expectations as both an entertainment center and transportation hub.

And  even the odd thoughts of reliable forms of alternative transportation options might have been done by accident in the past, but could prove a bright shining star to  showcase this parcel. Because of the local business district at Carillion Parkway, there is an already established Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) bus route that serves the surrounding neighborhood office complex/condo community to the west of this parcel of land that could be greatly expanded to ease the transportation burdens of fans or  might even be more fine tuned to the needs of the stadium complex.

Sure there will need to be additonal road construction or even off ramps or remote parking lots to take full advantage of the stadium, but they could be effectively designed to take the additonal stress off of  the usual I-275 traffic going towards other Tampa Bay regions. And I personally like the idea of a year round Convention Center being constructed on the parcel to help bring a burst of activity to the stadium year round.  But the biggest priority will have to be to build a great infrastructure supporting system to ease the demands by the I-275 traffic returning from Hillborough County at the 5 pm rush hour on game days.

And if you really want to look into the future about possible traffic solutions, maybe the PSTA and Hillsborough Area Rapid Transit Authority (HARTA) could combine or share some resources and produce a traffic alternative to bringing fans to Rays games from satellite parking lots or pre-destined pick-up locations throughout the Tampa Bay area. But because this parcel of land, to me, is so perfect for this future Rays stadium, my imagination is already running a mile a minute with ideas and future personal idea recommendations. Guess that is why they did not consider me for a post on the Coalition(lol).

And it is great to be finally have the ABC report coming out and we can get a bit of closure towards all of the ideas and proposals thrown up in the air over the last two years considering locations for a future home for the Rays. And it finally puts the obsurd idea of refurbishing Tropicana Field or even considering the distant Tampa Fair Grounds out as choices for final stadium consideration, and we can quickly move onto the three best locales.

And the Pinellas County choice is simply ideal as it is also situated within a critical epicenter of the cross-county area to give more access to Tampa residents and upper Pinellas and Pasco-Hernando county citizens, but might prove a bit of an added driving burden for people traveling north from Sarasota or Manatee Counties. But if it is a state-of-the-art stadium with all the bells and whistles to entice corporate America to expand their involvement and support with the Rays, then we are all going to be winners in the long run, not just the Rays.

This beautiful parcel of land was left in it’s present state for some reason. It has withstood the Florida construction booms to stay true and unbuilt upon for decades. Could this be the ultimate locale for the Rays future proposed stadium? Can we finally put to rest the echoes of discontent by the citizens of Tampa to their “bridge phobia” or the hour long commute to games and finally bridge this stadium location into a unified show of community support by the  Tampa Bay region on this one proposed site.

Next time you rush down Ulmerton Road on your way home from Tampa, look to the northwest and check out this parcel of land and see if you can see what I see…. A beautiful retractable roof stadium with a natural grass surface situated right off a main span of highway, but with a distant flickering lights of the downtown buildings surrounding Tampa Bay from the sight points on this tract of land.

This debate might be destined to go back and forth for the next few years with each side proclaiming some thin sliver of a slice of advantage to their location. But this location to me is perfectly suited to entertain the notion and the construction of a new masterpiece stadium for baseball. People soon forget that the first drawings of Tropicana Field had the stadium open to the elements on its southern side.

Instead it was enclosed and with Minnesota opening their new open-air stadium in 2010, the Trop will be the last of the totally domed stadium in Major League Baseball. So maybe it was  a sort of locale devine intervention that left  this parcel vacant for so long and loudly screams “baseball stadium” to me. And hopefully it will be heard loud and long enough for even the multitudes of Rays fans in both counties to conclude….This has to be the new home for Rays baseball.

18 Comments

Where ever it happens, I just hope it gets done. I actually like those original designs for a new park. I’m glad the days of Domes are just about gone. The Trop isn’t the Rays fault. But is Tampa behind their team? Are they going to show up at the park?

Brooklyn,
I think Tampa in the West Shore region is not right for a stadium. And downtown would be nice, but I spend an hour or so trying to get out after a concert with less than 20,000 fans.
Consider a Yankee series, or a concert/hockey game down near Channelside all getting out abouyt the same times and you got major league gridlock.
But, it could have a leftfield porch like in Seattle where the city backdrop would make an awesome postcard to send to friends in an email.
Funny thing is, if the Trop has been built 3 years later, it would never has been designed as a dome. Might of had the same type retractable as Safeco Field, but look retro like Camden Yards. The original Rays stadium was built right before the architectural concepts for a “old feel” stadium with state-of-the-art technology hit the drawing boards…Bummer

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

They really should listen to a fan’s voice when discussing this pressing issue. Especially someone like yourself. you deserve a spot on that coalition. the renderings and visuals of the proposed new stadium look so awesome
http://pittpeas.mlblogs.com

Matt,
No one listens to me, not even the dang dog!
Seriously, the Rays and the local governments would never put something like that in the hands of someone who has a passion and a love for the game of baseball.
They want “yes” people and little froids that will do what the puppermasters behind-the-scenes say is right, not public consensus or what might happen in the long run.
In short, I am too close to the situation to make a sound judgement decison… or that is what they would have you believe (lol).

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

That plot of land looks good to me. And as for whether people will show up to support a new stadium, my feeling – to steal the line from “Field of Dreams” – is that if you build it they will come!

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

I was expecting some images of a destitute Lou Piniella here but I guess I got my Piniellas & Pinellas confused. Can’t blame me though, Sweet Lou is from the Tampa area… so I hear.
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/

Jane,
Funny you should mention that line from the film.
When they first built the Trop., that line was constantly being said over and over again by a local radio station because we were building a stadium and did not have a team at the time.
After swinging and missing for Minnesota,Chicago (White Sox) Seattle, San Francisco,Oakland missing out on a team, we finally struck the ball in the second round of expansion.
Long wait for baaseball, but well worth the time and effort.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Jeff,
Both you and Jane seem to be a linking of the minds today.
Lou Piniella actually has a home out on Reddington Beach that I used to deliver soda and Aquafina water to when he was with the Rays and before he headed to Chi-town.
Actually I can see Lou with his feet up in a hammock looking out at the Gulf of Mexico at sunset dreaming of the day the Cubs again play up to their potential…..Could it be 2010?
Only the colors of the rainbow know for sure……..and they aren’t tell anyone.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

rays, great blog as always. Thanks 4 comenting on mine didnt know u liked both colts and saints fan. its weird i have a manning AND brees jersey now there in the super bowl this yr move over manning here comes brees lol. now with damon most likely out of the yankees the rays have a shot at him do they???
tmas805

A new park for the Rays? Sounds like a plan!! Was at Tropicana back in 2005 and thought it was pretty nice. But then again, it was my first visit, and they were playing the Red Sox. Hope the plans go though.
-Holly
http://irishsoxkid19.mlblogs.com

Tmas,
Why would we want a guy who can’t throw into the outfield with any gusto?
Nope, I can not see Johnny Damon here unless he falls to around $ 3 million, if then.
Seriously, Scott Boras, his agent, is basically in crisis mode since the Yankees signed Randy Winn today who is faster, has a better arm, and can still hit the ball.
I think I hear the exit music of Damon wearing pinstripes in 2010.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Holly,
This is just the first move in a long Chess match by the Rays and the Tampa Bay community.
It will not be a 10-move match, but might take until maybe 2015 before a stadium is “offically” put in the works.
But until then, there will be many moves and traps both for and against the stadium issue and their locations hit the daylight and the next move might be critical to all those involved in the stadium issue.
Now that Oakland might get their wish of a new stadium, only Tampa Bay is sitting in a pre-1990 rendition stadium that is out-of-date physically as well as fiscally.
Should be fun to watch how this all plays out….Really fun!

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Very nice entry. It’s always exciting just thinking about a new stadium!!
http://catlovesthedodgers.mlblogs.com

Cat,
It is exciting knowing that you might be seated in some modern, futuristic baseball stadium within the coming seasons, but it is only in its infant stages right now.
But hopefully like raising a child, the experience will be great and be somehting you always dreamed of….But sometimes reality just bites you in the booty, and it could just as easy go sour and you see the moving vans pulling up to Tropicana Field.
Guess we wil just have to stay tuned and hope this soap opera has a happy ending.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Jeff,
I put that right in the same bow along with the Milwaukee Brewers moving to Orlando.
That came out via some sort of Peter Gammons column a few days ago, and it is totally without merit.
Think about it, the Yankees and Red Sox would have to approve such a move (which I doubt would happen without large $$ thrown around) into their territorial rights region, plus why would you try and hog-tie a region with three teams loyalties like that?
Honest truth, it is a farce to us down here, but other cities could be inserted to make it more believeable.
If it had said San Antonio or Charlotte it would have carried more weight with me.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I feel ya. Was curious as to how you felt about the possibility of losing the Rays all together. It saddens me that the Rays and the Marlins can’t draw large crowds. They’re both really sound organizations with the keys to win for a good long while! It just irks me to no end seeing those stadiums so bare, with few fans while the product on the field is high caliber.
–Jeff

Jeff,
Florida has always been a transient state. Most people in the Northern state tend to use it as a warming plate for their Winters, and we do not sustain a viable legion of followers to just “The Rays”.
It is the reason for sell-outs against the Yankees and Red Sox, both with expandable fans bases that follow their team, even when they move away from the Northeast.
Me, I am one day moving to Seattle, but I will follow the Rays still even if it makes no sense to anyone else.
The true generation to follow the team is now in High School.
they are born and bred here and will have more localized loyalties to the team in the future as they become breadwinners and get better jobs……..Hopefully the Rays will last here that long.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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