Tampa, Florida - Right now some vacant land near the St. Pete Times Forum looks suitable for a sandlot baseball game, but some folks envision much greater things. They think the property near Channelside Drive and S. Caesar Street might be just the spot for a new Rays stadium.
"We think Channelside would be ideal for a couple of reasons," says Ryan Neubauer who runs a website for fans of a downtown Tampa stadium location. He says private investors are seriously looking at the land and that his group is even doing a site survey.
"It has a fair amount of existing parking. It is an entertainment district right now and a stadium would only enhance what's there already," says Neubauer.
And talk about the downtown site comes at the same time that Hillsborough Commission Chairman Ken Hagen turns up the heat on baseball talks.
Hagan wrote a letter to the ABC Coalition requesting information. The coalition is a private group that studied proposed stadium locations and in the group's report the Westshore area and downtown Tampa fared well.
"If you read the report you'll see that the current location is not a viable, long-term solution," says Hagan. Still, he insists he's not trying to create a new battle of the bays over the Rays. "I thought it's very important to have a dialogue and do everything we can to keep the Rays in the Tampa Bay region."
St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster says he's fine with Hillsborough talking up the Rays, as long as it's about supporting the team in his city. "They can communicate to the residents of Hillsborough County that Major League Baseball is being played in the area; go west on the Howard Frankland and you'll find it. I think (the talk) is good for us," says Foster. He's also quick to point out that the city has a contract with the Rays to play in St. Petersburg until 2027.