Over the last 30 years during my road trips on I-275 over the Howard Franklin Bridge towards Pinellas County/St. Petersburg, my eyes have always been drawn towards a particular densely swampy parcel of land just opposite of the long abandoned Florida Welcome Center.
I have always puzzled me why some savvy developer/builder had not previously bought or built something amazing on this prime slab of real estate nestled just outside the mangrove wetlands.
It simply astonishes that this parcel of tall grass had not been the jewel of someone’s fast money making scheme, and was not being held vacant because of possible salt water intrusion or interrupting the natural flow of the the mangroves thickets lining the Southern most edges of this parcel.
Sure I have seen a few scattered condo communities and office buildings spring up just off this uneven and sometimes water-soaked parcel, but even with the prospect of future encroachment by modern civilization to its grasses, this pact of land has remained pretty consistant and dormant for several decades.
Even as I gaze upon this large parcel this afternoon, my vivid and wild imagination envisions a plethora of possibilities of what could one day be built upon this land. That one day a calling card monument could be built upon this land and become a regional welcoming beacon to travelers cruising Southbound on I-275 just a click beyond the Ulmerton Road and 9th Street exit ramps towards the hamlets of mid Pinellas County and St. Petersburg.
Why has this massive singular parcel withstood the rush of greed and easy money to somehow be sparred by the decades of real estate speculation and explosions to remain clear and free of development?
Was there a wise benefactor, or a possible (hopefully) dealbreaker botched by someone stuck somewhere within one of the neighboring office buildings without adequate windows to not build, sell or even excavate this lush green segment off the tip of the Howard Franklin Bridge.
Could it possibly be held in secret by a sly developer or real estate mastermind for the rebound of the real estate market future with visions of dollar signs dancing through his head.
Could someone have really envisioned so far into the future that this same parcel could one day be the site of a great architectural symbol of the Tampa Bay region built upon its sandy soil and forever be known throughout the World for its construction on this very site?
That this same piece of land could one day possibly house the benchmark in stadium ”green technology” while also communing and embracing the surrounding mangroves and oyster beds to showcase that man and nature can systematically co-exsist, even with the intrusion of sports just beyond the shallow canoe trails and tide pools?
It is a divine miracle this same plot did not go under the blades of a bulldozer or excavator before now. 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 proposed multi-use stadium that would evolve into the Florida Suncoast Dome/Thunderdome/Tropicana Field. It was just built 9 miles in the wrong direction.
It is so wild that this little preserved parcel of land could one day be considered as the perfect centerpiece parcel for the building or state-of-the-art stadium/convention center facility that the Tampa Bay community has been seeking for so long.
It is still a bit mindboggling to me that this parcel of land has stood the epic test of Florida’s construction explosion and is still standing here, undeveloped. It might just be the perfect location to make both sides of Tampa Bay again embrace baseball with open arms from both sides of the pristine blue waters.
It is simply unimaginable that at this very location lies within a few feet of this region’s highest traveled throughfares, with great infrastructural groundwork already being done to improve the area’s roads and room for possible additional external ramps for the future.
This parcel might need a bit more subtle tweaking and upgrading to take on the extra burden of game day traffic along with the usual commuter congestion, plus maybe a few additional ground transportation options 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.
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 as a shining example of what a stadium site should envision.
Because of the already exisiting business district around the 28th Street/ Carillion Parkway hub, there is an 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 fine tuned to the needs of a convention center/stadium complex.
I personally like the idea of a year round Convention Center being constructed on the parcel to help bring an extra burst of daily activity to the stadium year round. Top priority would have to be given to designing a feasible infrastructure support system to ease the demands of both I-275 traffic returning to and from Hillborough County at the 5 pm rush hour on game days.
And if you really want to look into the future for possible traffic solutions, maybe the PSTA and Hillsborough Area Rapid Transit (HART) can combine their collective resources as a community unit and effectively create a regional remote parking lot alternative or establish a multiple-county transit solution to bringing fans to Rays games from satellite parking lots or pre-destined pick-up locations throughout Tampa Bay.
The Pinellas County choice is simply ideal as it is 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 a additional 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.
This beautiful parcel of land was left in it’s present state for some reason. It has withstood the Florida construction boom, stayed true to it’s natural roots 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 one potential 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 envision on that parcel….
A beautiful retractable roof stadium with a natural grass surface situated right off a main span of Interstate, but with a unique nightly background of distant flickering lights of the downtown buildings surrounding Tampa Bay from any sightline vantage points.This stadium debate can no longer remain silent or continue with each side of the bay proclaiming to the heavens that their stadium site location has some thin sliver of an advantage. This one site fulfills a lot of the criteria, is centerally located, and has breathtaking scenic nature views into the eustary that is Tampa Bay.
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 sideWith Minnesota opening Target Field in 2010 and forever leaving the Metrodome, the Trop will be the last of a dying breed of domed stadiums within Major League Baseball. So maybe it was some sort of divine intervention that left this parcel vacant for so long and loudly screams “baseball stadium” to me.
Hopefully it will be heard loud and long enough for even the multitudes of Rays fans in both counties to conclude….This would be a great parcel of land for the future home of Rays baseball.