Old Tampa Greyhound track proposed as possible Rays stadium site

in Uncategorized by

-Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist is proposing a new idea for a possible Rays’ stadium site – the old Tampa Greyhound Dog Track.

The 25-acre property sits on the east side of I-275 and on the south side of Waters Avenue. It’s nestled in the economically strapped Sulfur Springs neighborhood that has long been targeted for economic development.

“The utilization of the dog track site for a stadium could jump start that long-awaited revitalization of Sulfur Springs and continue positive growth in Seminole Heights,” Crist wrote in an email. Like Seminole Heights, Sulfur Springs is a historic district. Seminole Heights, throughout recent years, has undergone a massive transformation from a poor community to a sought-after destination for small businesses and young professionals.

Crist points out the site is easily accessible by car because of its close proximity to I-275. It’s also central in the region splitting commutes between resident in North Hillsborough and South and still not too far a drive for fans in Pinellas.

“Access would not be limited only to those with cars, since this site is also transit accessible via HART’s MetroRapid that runs alongside it on Nebraska Avenue,” Crist wrote. “The site’s proximity to the Hillsborough River might even offer the opportunity for water transit from downtown and Chanelside (sic.)”

Other land near the track could function as what Crist calls “complementary development.” That includes 15 acres south of Bird Street and another 19 acres where the ailing K-Mart shopping center sits. It’s nearby a city park and the iconic water tower on the Hillsborough River.

“This location offers the added benefit of lying within the City’s Enterprise Zone and CDBG District.  This could offer the potential for valuable tax credits, needed job creation and could help reduce costs,” Crist continues.

He also points out possible environmental benefits. The current site is paved over by acres of asphalt that contribute to water quality issues. New development would replace the old asphalt with newer materials and designs like updated stormwater capture systems that would help alleviate groundwater problems.

He also notes the county could look for state and federal money if it qualifies as a Brownfield or stormwater mitigation site.

“There are many issues that should be evaluated when choosing the best site for a new stadium.  Redevelopment of the old Tampa Greyhound Dog Track has unique opportunities and benefits that could lower costs and render a greater and longer- lasting return on this investment.  It should be seriously considered in the search for a new Rays Stadium site,” Crist concludes.

St. Pete City Council rejected a proposed agreement between the Rays and Mayor Rick Kriseman that would have allowed the team to start looking at sites outside of St. Pete. Without that approval, the Rays are contractually barred from considering this site — for now anyway.

Here is Crist’s complete letter:

There has been a lot of talk about a different site for a new Rays baseball stadium.

One site that should receive serious consideration is the old Tampa Greyhound Dog Track, located on the east side of I-275 and the south side of Waters Avenue. This site is approximately 25 acres and sits in the historic Tampa community of Sulfur Springs that has already been targeted for redevelopment.

The Tampa Greyhound Dog Track is close to other properties that offer significant opportunities for complementary development. This includes 15 acres south of Bird Street, adjacent to the Sulfur Spring and the Hillsborough River. In addition, next door on the west side of I-275 there is a 19-acre site with a declining K Mart shopping center that is adjacent to a city park with a highly visible, iconic water tower on the Hillsborough River.  The utilization of the dog track site for a stadium could jump-start that long awaited revitalization of Sulfur Springs and continue positive growth in Seminole Heights.

This area is easily accessible by I-275 on the west, U.S. Highway 41 on the east, and has in close proximity a CSX rail line that connects downtown to USF/Busch Gardens. The City’s long-range plan has already designated this area as Urban Mixed Use-60, which would allow for higher intensity land uses.  Access would not be limited only to those with cars, since this site is also transit accessible via HART’s MetroRapid that runs alongside it on Nebraska Avenue. The site’s proximity to the Hillsborough River might even offer the opportunity for water transit from downtown and Chanelside.

This location offers the added benefit of lying within the City’s Enterprise Zone and CDBG District.  This could offer the potential for valuable tax credits, needed job creation and could help reduce costs.

There are a large number of other potential benefits that should not be ruled out. Redevelopment of these parcels using today’s more protective environmental standards could result in improvements in groundwater quality and the quality of stormwater that discharges into the Hillsborough River.  The many acres of old asphalt that cover this site and contribute to poor water quality issues have long been in need of removal and redesign.  Redevelopment that uses newer materials and techniques, such as pervious surface material, updated stormwater capture systems and natural landscaping enhancements would improve water quality.  Obtaining state and federal revitalization monies due to the potential of the site to qualify for Brownfield and/or stormwater mitigation status is a real possibility.

There are many issues that should be evaluated when choosing the best site for a new stadium.  Redevelopment of the old Tampa Greyhound Dog Track has unique opportunities and benefits that could lower costs and render a greater and longer- lasting return on this investment.  It should be seriously considered in the search for a new Rays Stadium site.

Sincerely,

Commissioner Victor D. Crist

Hillsborough County Commission, District 2

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.