The Tampa Bay Rays are expected to announce their relocation to the Tampa neighborhood of Ybor City on Friday, according to Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times.
“This is a major step,” Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan said Thursday. “I’m hopeful this will continue to build momentum on our effort to bring the Tampa Bay Rays to Ybor. Tomorrow’s announcement will go a long way toward that, and I imagine at some point in the near future they’ll announce their ballpark design.”
The team is expected to make the official announcement at the Tampa Baseball Museum at 1:30 p.m. ET Friday.
The Rays have played at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, since joining Major League Baseball in 1998. According to Contorno, “Financing for a new stadium is not yet in place and could still take months to hammer out. The Rays have an agreement with the City of St. Petersburg that allows them to search for a new ballpark through January 2019.”
Contorno added that “business leaders Ron Christaldi and Charles Sykes will unveil a corporate campaign to raise support for a Rays stadium in Tampa” on Friday. Kevin O’Donnell of Fox13News.com added that “until the team is satisfied with strong support from corporations for season tickets, they likely won’t move ahead with discussing how to pay for the stadium.”
As Contorno wrote, the club and local officials like the area near downtown Tampa for several reasons, including the neighborhood’s “local authenticity,” its placement between several transportation options for fans and its potential for future development.