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Rays moving forward with stadium plans

Rays moving forward with stadium plans

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Rays continued to move forward on plans for a downtown stadium by submitting a preliminary design consideration document to St. Petersburg officials on Tuesday.

The submittal came on the same day the organization announced that a detailed transportation and parking study had concluded that the Al Lang site in downtown St. Petersburg is well suited for the Rays' proposed waterfront ballpark.

Concepts highlighted in the preliminary design consideration document include ballpark roof and façade design, the relationship of the proposed ballpark to the surrounding community, potential public amenities, streetscape improvement ideas and sustainability goals.

"This preliminary design consideration document illustrates how the Rays' new ballpark will respect and enhance the rich history of baseball on the Al Lang site and its dynamic downtown waterfront location; we expect this project will mean as much to downtown St. Petersburg as most of our other projects have meant to their communities," said Joe Spear, founding senior principal of HOK Sport, in a release by the Rays.

Added Michael Kalt, the Rays senior vice president of development and business affairs: "We look forward to continuing the public dialogue and refining the concepts for what we think will be a great amenity for the entire community."

Meanwhile, the transportation and parking study revealed that during the team's 81 home game season, disruptions to the traffic and parking infrastructure would be minimal.

Nearly 14,000 parking spaces that are likely to be available for the majority of ballpark events have been identified, a figure that does not include the nearly 7,000 on-street parking spaces that will remain available for downtown businesses, institutions and residents. Many of downtown's largest institutions have expressed an interest in working with the Rays to provide parking for ballpark patrons, including All Children's Hospital, Bayfront Medical Center, and the University of South Florida: St. Petersburg.

No major transportation infrastructure improvements are necessary to accommodate the ballpark, and the number of uniformed officers at the new ballpark is expected to be similar to those currently at Tropicana Field. For 32 key intersections analyzed in the downtown area, only one minor physical intersection improvement would be needed to accommodate the flow of inbound and outbound traffic before and after baseball games. Other minor operational changes would be required, but would be temporary, implemented before and removed after a ballgame.

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"Starting with Baltimore in the early 1990s, and including Cleveland, Denver, San Diego, Seattle, and San Francisco [among many others], cities have successfully developed Major League ballparks in the downtown core," said David Wallace, a partner for Rummel, Klepper & Kahl, LLP (RK&K), the consulting form who prepared the study. "These ballparks have, in many cases, renewed activity in formerly blighted areas, or have served to enhance already vibrant downtown communities, similar to that within St. Petersburg. While each ballpark faced its own unique parking and transportation challenges, these challenges were overcome with effective planning and cooperation between the ball club, local officials, and area residents."

As part of the study, a transportation and parking task force was established in January 2008 to bring together representatives of several of the key city, county and state agencies that would be impacted by the construction of a new ballpark, or which could provide valuable insight and data to help assess the feasibility of constructing the new waterfront ballpark. This task force, which met on multiple occasions during the preparation of this study, is viewed as the core group of individuals who would continue to meet on a regular basis to discuss ballpark-related transportation and parking issues if the proposal passes St. Petersburg's referendum process.

"Ensuring convenient access and adequate parking for the ballpark and other downtown attractions is critical to the success of downtown St. Petersburg and the Rays," Kalt said.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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