TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Just as the Tampa Bay Rays begin their push to return to the World Series, the team is making news off the field as well.
Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson of Pasco County confirmed to 8 On Your Side that a Rays representative reached out to him in the past month or so about the possibility of needing state help with infrastructure costs. The news was first reported by the Tampa Bay Times on Friday.
In a statement, Simpson said, “I don’t think there is an appetite for any subsidies to build a stadium. But we are trying to get ahead of the curve when it comes infrastructure. Maybe we can be helpful there, because the infrastructure is something that will benefit everybody who comes to the area, all the businesses there. But I want to be clear, they have not asked for anything at this time.”
Representatives from the Rays told 8 On Your Side they are not commenting on the reporting at this time.
Last week, team management confirmed their commitment to a split-city season with Montreal with plans to hang a banner representing the two locations throughout the playoffs. The plan to hang the banner was later scrapped after blowback from fans.
8 On Your Side was the first to report the possible Ybor City stadium site in 2017, a location which — by some calculations — would put a million more people within a half-hour drive of the stadium.
That site would make the Rays much more accessible to fans in Central Florida.
“I think that would be better, personally, because it’s kind of a pain to get all the way to St. Pete, especially from Orlando,” said Owen McNamara, who lives in Oviedo. “And there’s a lot of Rays fans in Orlando and outside of St. Pete area. And even if it was just 45 minutes across the bridge near Amalie, that would make it so much easier to get to. Because we go to Lightning games regularly, it’s just so much more difficult to get out here because it’s that extra 45-minute drive.”
Jennifer Mott and her family have many fond memories cheering on the Rays at Tropicana Field.
“We’ve been fans since the beginning,” she said next to he son. “He’s 18. he’s been a fan since birth.”
“I like (the Trop), but I feel like a new stadium wouldn’t be terrible,” Jacob Mott said.
Owen McNamara made the drive from near Orlando to St. Pete for Game two of the ALDS.
“I don’t think it should fall on the taxpayers to pay for the stadium,” he said. “I think the ownership needs to step up.”
McNamara said a move to a ballpark across the bay would make Rays baseball more accessible to fans from Central Florida.
“It’s kind of a pain to get all the way to St. Pete especially from Orlando,” McNamara said. “And there’s a lot of Rays fans in Orlando and outside of St. Pete area. And even if it was just 45 minutes across the bridge near Amalie, that would make it so much easier to get to.”
Still, plenty of Rays fans like Jake Bundy would rather see their team stay put.
“I think if they just renovate the Trop, make it a better place to go to the baseball game, I think it would be a lot better,” Bundy said.
Hillsborough County’s Transportation Planning Organization is set to vote next week on road improvements that include a new Ybor City exit off I-4, a measure that would pave the way for smoother traffic near the proposed stadium site.