If the Tampa Bay Rays end up building a new Ybor City ballpark and splitting a regular season with Montreal, the team could play spring games at a new facility and build a new training facility in Pasco County.
Currently the Rays train and play games at Charlotte Sports Park in Charlotte. When the team first moved spring ops there from Al Lang Field and the Naimoli Complex in 2009, it was seen as a way for players to bond away from the team’s home at St. Petersburg. But times have changed, and with the Rays’ future in Tampa Bay up in the air, there’s plenty of change in the air.
First: the team is looking at building a new ballpark in the city’s Ybor City and playing the first half of the season there, and the second half of the season in a new Montreal ballpark. (We’ve been following the whole process at our sister site, Ballpark Digest.) Under this scenario, the Rays would leave Charlotte Sports Park and play spring-training games at the new Ybor City ballpark as well.
Leaving Port Charlotte would also mean finding a new training camp in the Tampa area. As you may remember, there were several teams exploring new spring-training homes in 2014 — the Astros, Brewers, Nationals and Blue Jays — and in the midst of discussions Pasco County threw its hat into the run with a proposed complex in Wesley Chapel, about 25 miles north of Tampa, in the southernmost part of Pasco County. The Astros and Nationals settled on a new West Palm Beach County, while the Brewers and Blue Jays stayed put in Phoenix and Dunedin, respectively.
But apparently Pasco County is back, with local elected officials positioning it as hosting a training complex should the Rays move to a new Tampa Ybor City ballpark. As noted, the team would play spring-training games at the new ballpark (sorry if you wanted to see a return to Al Lang Field!) and training in Pasco County. The lease at Charlotte Sports Park runs through 2028, and with the Rays looking at a new Ybor City ballpark in that time frame, we could be plenty of changes for the team in coming years. From the Tampa Bay Times:
[State Senate President Wilton] Simpson said he and other Pasco-based state legislators would be open to seeking state financial aid for the training site “depending on the details.”
“If it does come to fruition the Pasco County (legislative) delegation would be very supportive. Infrastructure and facilities is something that would sit very well with Pasco County – something that we would certainly be interested in helping them get behind,” Simpson said.
There are plenty of moving pieces when it comes to determining the future of the Rays in Tampa, so there’s no assurance of a new Pasco County training facility–much less a new Ybor City ballpark.