Developer to give up push for new Rays stadium

Fitzgerald Cecilio – 4E Sports Reporter

St. Petersburg, FL, United States (4E Sports) – Developer Darryl LeClair is close to giving up his dream of building a new Tampa Bay Rays Stadium at Carillon Business Park.

Two years ago, LeClair unveiled bold plans for a new Rays stadium, which was 15 minutes closer to Tampa than Tropicana Field.

However, no one from the Rays ever approached LeClair, who is planning to construct a mixed-use stadium, office and residential project on 16 acres he owns south of Ulmerton Road.

“We’d like to keep the window open, but we can’t afford to keep it open much longer,” LeClair said. “We tried to help facilitate the baseball discussion and it played out the way it played out. We can’t sit around and wait for baseball to make a decision. We’re moving forward.”

Last week, the city’s Community Planning and Preservation Commission approved a preliminary zoning change that would allow LeClair to more intensely develop the site. However, he wasn’t at the meeting, and baseball was never mentioned.

Recently, LeClair said he plans to start construction next summer on “Echelon City Center,” a mixed-use project that will combine office, retail, residential and a hotel.

The first phase would be an apartment building. At that point, he said the Rays could still jump on board. Any stadium would share exterior walls with retail, apartments and the hotel.

But when he adds other buildings onto the stadium footprint — probably by the end of 2016 — a ballpark will no longer fit, LeClair said.

Rays officials have said Tropicana Field cannot sustain baseball in the long run. They want to explore possible new sites on both sides of the bay.

St. Petersburg officials, who hold a contract that binds the team to the Trop through 2027, have refused so far to allow them to look outside Pinellas.

Rays owner Stuart Sternberg has maintained that any new stadium location must be “pitch perfect.” He has refused to negotiate on any single site until he can explore all possibilities throughout Tampa Bay.

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