TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg wants to make a historic neighborhood in Tampa the next home of the perennially low-drawing baseball team, which wants to shift across the bay from St. Petersburg.
Sternberg said at a news conference Friday the Rays will focus their new ballpark search on the east side of the bay at a 14-acre site in Ybor City, just north of Ybor Channel.
It’s the first time the team has publicly stated its preference for Tampa over St. Petersburg, its home since the franchise started play in 1998.
Sternberg and baseball commissioner Rob Manfred say Tropicana Field, the last fixed dome stadium in the major leagues, is inadequate. Tampa Bay drew a major league-low 1.25 million fans last year, including the team’s smallest crowd ever at the ballpark on the west side of the bay, 6,509 against Minnesota on Sept. 5.
Also Friday, a local businessman announced the formation of the Tampa Bay Rays 2020 organization and campaign to help gain support for the project from the public and business community.
The timeline of such a project is unclear. A new ballpark likely will cost more than $700 million.