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.