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Rays long-term future uncertain as team prepares for Opening Day

Tropicana Field April 7, 2022
Posted at 5:16 PM, Apr 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-07 18:42:28-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — After a 99-day lockout and a shortened spring training, opening day for the Tampa Bay Rays is finally here. The Rays play their first game of the season on April 8 at 3 p.m.

While fans are excited for the season, they're also looking forward to the future and wondering where the Rays will call home after their lease is up at Tropicana Field in 2027. It’s been a hot topic conversation for nearly two decades.

“15 years," Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said. "That’s incredible. I don’t know if that breaks any records, it may but we’re going to see if we can get it done as quickly as possible."

Mayor Castor and St. Petersburg Mayor, Ken Welch, recently met with leaders within the Rays organization. Both are making their best pitch, and Castor would like to see the team in Ybor City, which she said is conveniently located near downtown and a lot of new development.

“The Rays have to make some quick decisions here," Castor said. "We’re looking forward to seeing what they have in mind for the full season stadium, so we can find the funding and a perfect location for that."

St. Pete has an open slate with Tropicana Field and the land around it, which they plan to redevelop soon.

“We’re giving this our very best shot,” Mayor Welch said. “We met with the Rays Wednesday, and we have the understanding we will receive full consideration for a future ballpark and we’re moving forward in putting our plans together.”

Mayor Welch press conference ahead of Rays Opening Day

The Rays also kicked around the idea of a waterfront stadium in St. Pete perhaps at Al Lang Stadium or at the Albert Whitted Airport site, but there are major concerns about how rising sea levels could impact the multi-million dollar development.

As for Rays management, they have been pretty much silent about the team’s future since announcing the MLB would not allow the team to pursue their sister city concept split between Tampa Bay and Montreal, Canada.

Leaders on both sides of the bay are working to convince the team to choose their area for a full-time stadium, but in the end, they say as long as the team stays in the bay area, it will be a win for everyone.

“We are a major-league city because of the Tampa Bay Rays being here," Ferg’s Sports Bar and Grill owner Mark Ferguson said. "We need to support them, have everyone come out for every game and not just the home opener. Let’s support the Rays.”

Ferg's is located right near Tropicana Field and Ferguson said he brought in an extra 600 cases of beer in a refrigerated truck and is stockpiling 12,000 pounds of ice to be ready for Friday’s opening day game.