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Thursday, Jul 24th

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Abundance of riches: Another new ballpark pitched for Rays

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Tampa Bay Rays

Another developer has stepped up with a proposal to build a new ballpark for the Tampa Bay Rays, and we're pretty sure we'll see yet another game plan in coming weeks.

Developer Joel Cantor says he can build a 33,000-seat ballpark on the Channelside Bay Plaza site in downtown Tampa, on the waterfront, in a configuration similar to the one found at AT&T Park. While there's no financing plan in place -- though Cantor says his firm would pay $50 million, and presumably the Rays would continue their commitment of $150 million -- Cantor told the Tampa Bay Times he thought a downtown ballpark would be good for Tampa;

"Surprisingly, the dimensions fit on the water,'' he said. "It's obviously a big project, and it's a long shot. But we came to the conclusion that it would be the ideal site for a baseball stadium. It would a tremendous catalyst to rejuvenating downtown Tampa.''

The issue is going to be getting clear ownership of the land. Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is putting together a deal to buy Channelside Bay Plaza and will unveil his own ballpark plan in coming days, but the former owner of the land, Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. (which gave up ownership because it couldn't cover debt payments) can match any the price of any sale, plus an additional $375,000. 

The offers from Cantor and (presumably) Vinik will join one from Darryl LeClair to build a new ballpark in St. Pete's Carillon Business Park as options for the Rays in their quest for a new home. Tropicana Field clearly isn't the future of the franchise, and a new ballpark would lock the team into the Tampa Bay area. St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster has continually held that the team is contractually obligated to play at the Trop through 2027, but the ballpark bonds are slated to be paid off in 2016.

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