Rays Stadium Saga: New investment group plans to buy land in Downtown Tampa

11:52 PM, May 18, 2010   |    comments
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TAMPA, Florida - 10 Connects has learned a new investment group is planning on purchasing enough land in Downtown Tampa to build a state-of-the-art stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays.

The investment group, led by "Build it Downtown Tampa" founder Ryan Neubauer, will make the announcement Wednesday.  Their timetable includes land studies this summer, land acquisition this fall, and hopefully a dialogue with the Rays and elected leaders soon thereafter.

Neubauer first launched his grass-roots group last July to help find the Rays a home on the more populous side of Tampa Bay. 

But Wednesday's announcement - set to coincide with the ABC Coalition's presentation to the Hillsborough County Commission - is a landmark event for the group.  Neubauer says he the group of seven investors is planning on spending upwards of $25 million on land it would then make available for a stadium.

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster has repeatedly told 10 Connects that he's not worried about stadium talk in Tampa or Hillsborough County because regardless of how much land is donated, no municipality has the money to fund a $500+ million stadium.

In the past 50 years, only three major sports venues were built without public financing.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagen helped organize Wednesday's ABC Coalition presentation because he wants elected officials on both sides of Tampa Bay to help keep the Rays in the area.  But admitted financing may be the biggest challenge.

"I cannot imagine any government being in a position where it could offer public financing," Hagen said, but added that the private sector might be able to help get a stadium done - either in Pinellas County or Hillsborough County.

"If and when the Rays make their long-term plans known," he continued, "we would like to be a part of it and have a seat at the table to guarantee they stay in our region."

For now, the stadium saga remains at a stand-still.  St. Pete has warned other municipalities about interfering with its long-term contract with the Rays.  Mayor Foster, meanwhile, has said he would like to sit down with team leaders, but they haven't accepted his offer to talk.

"We're going to give ourselves a little bit of time," Rays Senior Vice President Michael Kalt said Tuesday.  "Maybe it's in-season, maybe it's after the season...we just wante people to concentrate on the best team in baseball."

The Rays are a league-best 28-11 through 39 games.

Read more about the ongoing Rays Stadium Saga here.  Or follow 10 Connects reporter Noah Pransky on Twitter at www.twitter.com/noahpransky, Facebook at www.facebook.com/noahpransky, or on his Sports vs. News blog, Shadow of the Stadium. 

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