Local Tampa architect reveals unofficial Ray’s stadium design

The stadium design by Joe Toph includes a bird’s-eye view.






A Tampa architect has developed an unofficial visual concept for the proposed Tampa Bay Rays ballpark in Ybor City.

Joe Toph released his vision for the new stadium on SkyScraperCity.com under the username Bueller. The designs are unofficial and the Ray’s team was not involved in their creation.

“I created these for fun,” Toph said. “I just wanted to get a creative dialogue started on the potential the location has.”

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan announced Oct. 24 that he found a site for a new baseball stadium. The 14 acre site is bordered by the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, North 15th Street, East 4th Avenue and Channelside Drive.

Locals and officials brought up one of the main issues with the location, which is parking. The lot is large enough for a baseball stadium, but there is concern that there may not be enough room on the proposed site for additional parking to be built.

However, the proximity to Ybor City and Downtown Tampa makes this site easily accessible through public transit. Toph’s plan includes the use of the trolley line, noting that it could also serve as a light rail line in the future. A possible Uber pickup lot and a water taxi marina are also included in the design.

If Toph’s vision does not pan out, and another garage cannot be built on the lot, there are other parking options. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told ABC Action News that the parking garages in Ybor City and in the downtown area are not used every night.

“The key will be to provide the linkages whether it’s a trolley or whatever to connect those garages to the stadium,” Buckhorn said.

The next hurdle for the proposed site will be finding the funding for the project.

“That’s going to be the $800 million question,” Buckhorn said.

The Rays will have to come to the table with a significant financial plan to fund the potential stadium. Mayor Buckhorn doesn’t want another stadium built on taxpayer dollars.

Raymond James Stadium is funded completely by taxpayer dollars and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lease to play in the stadium. According to Buckhorn, another stadium funded the same way would leave future generations of mayors and locals with an unpayable debt.

Tampa Bay real estate agent and Palmetto Beach resident, Laura Meyer, is looking forward to the possible development of the new stadium in such close proximity to the neighborhood she has called home for over a decade.

“A stadium in Ybor would have a huge impact on the residential community here,” Meyer said. “It’s the kind of boost the neighborhood could use to really put it on the map as a new up and coming area for Tampa.”

Palmetto Beach sits south of Ybor, west of 22nd Street and tucked on the east side of Desoto Park. Meyer says the area has a lot of potential to be another residential hot spot like Channelside and Hyde Park have become.

However, other locals are not as convinced that a stadium located in Ybor would be good move.

“I don’t know how they are going to fit a stadium onto the lot they are interested in,” Justin Cales, a student at Hillsborough Community College, said. “The traffic would just be terrible, as if it isn’t bad enough already. A stadium over here would be chaos.”

Cales has been attending HCC in Ybor for over a year. The small brick roads have taken time for him to adjust to and the idea of stadium traffic on those streets isn’t comforting.

“Ybor is great the way it is now, I don’t why we’d want to mess up a good thing,” Cales said.

Florida Focus News Brief Nov. 16, 2017

In this news brief: Tampa police and local organizations are stepping up their efforts in Seminole Heights; Two Tampa beaches close for high levels of bacteria; The USF football team has had an impressive season and tonight they’re playing in primetime; Busch Gardens is asking you to name their newest baby.


Florida Focus News Brief Nov. 15, 2017

In this news brief: A crash involving a school bus and a car injures six people; A “skimmer sweep” in Pasco County finds devices on pumps in three different gas stations.; Police search for man who stole money at a Sun City Center Publix; A new app helps make parking easier in Sarasota; Chi Alpha works to ship packages to Puerto Rico.

Florida Focus News Brief Nov. 8, 2017

In this news brief: Sarasota police arrest 15 people in a major undercover drug investigation; in a new phone scam, callers are claiming to be law enforcement; a Tampa man convicted of murder is scheduled to die by lethal injection; Hillsborough County students protest teachers’ wages at several Hillsborough County schools.

Florida Focus News Brief Oct. 30, 2017

In this news brief: Jury selection in a quadruple murder trial begins; A Tampa woman is injured in an early morning shooting; The University of South Florida holds its first annual “Slut Walk”; Tampa International Airport is growing, adding 69 new shops; Dave and Buster’s opens its first in Tampa.

Tampa Police Museum educates its community

TAMPA- There’s no doubt that police officers have a risky job. Saving the lives of others and making sure citizens are safe on a daily basis is an officer’s duty and mission. You can imagine the constant fear that their loved ones may have while they’re out patrolling our streets.

Mother and volunteer, Kathy Belmonte, knows about feeling anxiety as her identical twin sons work for the Tampa Police Department (TPD).  In order to keep her mind off the potential safety concerns Belmonte volunteers at the Tampa Police Museum.

“First of all they’re shocked that it’s free,” said Belmonte, who has been volunteering at the museum on Saturdays for a year. “That’s always a big shock.”

Organized in 1995, the museum holds the history of TPD from as early as the late 1800s. The museum is located on Franklin Street next to the police station in downtown Tampa.

The museum was originally an old courtroom on Tampa Street that contained memorabilia. Lieutenants Robert Pennington and Roberto Batista decided to turn the room into what it is today. There’s much to discover as one walks through the museum for the first time. Visitors can expect to see both an artificial helicopter and a police car. According to Belmonte, kids love taking pictures with both artifacts.

Artifacts are not the only main attraction one can experience. Visitors will be able to “time-capsule” their way and gain insight of TPD, which was formed in 1886.

“What they should expect is to see how police work has evolved throughout the years,” said Paul Mumford, a volunteer and retired TPD officer. “From communications with a telephone, to communications with walkie-talkies and cell phones, and how the generation has gone from the old way of doing police work.”

One of Belmonte’s favorite parts of the museum is the “Andy Wade Memorial.” During his adult years, Wade traveled all over the Midwest to collect original police records of the world’s most notorious criminals. Some of the criminal records you will see include George “Machine Gun” Kelly and his wife Kathryn, Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, Harry Pierpont and George “Baby Face” Nelson.

According to the biography attached to his memorial, Wade died in a car crash. His family donated the records he collected to the museum. Some may not know that back in the early 1940s and 1950s, Tampa itself was known to be filled with local gangsters and members of different mafias.

“I love looking at all these old mug shots of famous people,” said Belmonte. “I’m impressed. I feel like every time I’m here, I find something new that I didn’t really notice before.”

Mumford has been volunteering at the museum for two years. The majority of the museum’s volunteers are retired TPD officers. There are parts within the museum where officers donated items to be showcased. Although Mumford has not donated items, you can still see him donating his time every Monday.

“There’s a lot of displays that are from officers,”said Mumford. “There’s a display of badges and patches – those were all police officers that had collections that donated them to the museum so they could be displayed to the people.”

Even though the tour includes many fun facts, the museum is also filled with somber memories of officers who lost their lives on duty. One can sense the love and purpose to serve the community that the fallen officers had for their city. Even though the museum has been open for over 20 years, the goal is to inform and educate more people about the wonderful history of the great men and women who protect us every day.

The Tampa Police Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Florida Focus News Brief Oct. 18, 2017

In this news brief: Tampa police make an arrest for an early morning  homicide; A teacher’s aide is arrested for child molestation; Tampa area deputies are traveling to the University of Florida in preparation for white nationalist Richard Spencer’s speech; New bell schedules are coming to Hillsborough County Public Schools.

Local shelter provides safe place for Tampa’s homeless

It’s a homeless shelter run by homeless people. Located on Florida Avenue in Hillsborough County, Homeless Helping Homeless houses dozens of people.

“We are 100 percent donation based, so that limits the amount people we can help,” said marketing and social media coordinator Kristen Ellis. “We’re limited in the things we can do.”

The organization is looking to expand their outreach to at least 36 more beds within the year. Currently, they have room for 18 beds in the main office, and rooms for more people in need at their women’s facility right down the street.

“We don’t take grants because we serve a niche of people that don’t qualify for those grants,” Ellis said.

If they take federal assistance, they would have to drug test their clients and make them meet certain rules. Ellis wants people to know that is not Homeless Helping Homeless’s calling.

“These people have their own journey, though it may be why they’re in this situation. We believe everyone has the right to a safe place to sleep,” Ellis said.

Current client and former heroin addict Celeste Dogmi is a testament to this. Dogmi has been sober for over a year and says it’s because of the homeless shelter.

“I was thrown out of rehab with no place to go,” Dogmi said. “It’s helping me with sober living, food, shelter and stability.”

The organization’s intention is not to change an addict’s lifestyle, but to help in whatever way a client wants them to. But if their help leads to someone getting clean, they consider that a win.

Students work with service organization to give back to community


Many students from all over Tampa Bay have joined SALT (Serve and Love Together) and meet every Monday at St. James Church in Tampa to give back to those in need.

Mina Hanna and Maggie Attia are two of the volunteers at the organization, and SALT teaches them about how they can improve the city they live in one week at a time.

“Well this is a wonderful organization as you see it gives back to the community,” Hanna said. “It gives back to the community and we see our fruits produce more fruit.”

Everything is donated from people in the community who are willing to help out.

“We also teamed up with another organization that hands out blankets and toiletries and socks,” Attia said.

SALT partnered with Blanket Tampa Bay and they have access to many necessities to share with those in need throughout the Bay Area.

People like Hanna and Attia truly see the difference that the organization makes on people’s lives every day by talking to people about God and giving them hope. SALT is affiliated with a Coptic youth group in the area.

“There used to be a guy on drugs, and his whole life was messed up, and I cannot tell you how much this organization influenced him. And now this guy is the most spiritual guy you’ll ever meet,” Hanna said.

SALT does a small gesture once a week, but it leaves a lifelong impact on some of these people that they get the pleasure of serving.

To learn more about this organization, please contact Mina Hanna at (727) 333-5318

New multicultural health clinic breaks language barrier for patients

Tampa has opened its first multicultural health care clinic, which aims to help the Hispanic community get health care in their own language.

CliniSanitas Medical Center originated in Colombia and currently has locations in several countries around the world. The medical center is focused on giving quality and personalized care to every patient.

The Tampa clinic, located at 3617 W. Hillsborough Ave. between N. Dale Mabry Highway and N. Himes Avenue, opened in December of 2016 and has had over 3,000 patients in less than three months since its inauguration.

The Medical Center Manager, Delilah Rosa-Gonzalez, says that the city’s Hispanic community has welcomed them.

“The community is loving it,” Rosa-Gonzalez said. “Patients that come here say ‘Spanish speaking doctors, please schedule me.’ We also have a fluent english speaking RA, and we have staff here that translate for her whenever she needs it. We help everybody, and people like that.”

CliniSanitas offers a variety of services such as primary care, specialty care, lab and diagnostics. The Clinic also has its own urgent care.

The RA in charge of the health program, Andrea Nunez Fisco, has been creating programs that will teach people healthy eating habits, exercise routines and the dangers of diabetes. She said the most important part of their work is education and prevention.

“We get the patients right here, we have the opportunity to educate them, to teach them everything and have that preventing part,” Fisco said. “That is extremely needed.”







Rowdies hope to be next team added to Major League Soccer


  1.  The Tampa Bay Rowdies hope to be the next Major League Soccer expansion team.

    The MLS is selecting two new expansion clubs in the second or third quarter of this year, and with St. Petersburg being part of the country’s 11th largest media market, it makes the Rowdies an attractive bid.The owner of the Rowdies, Bill Edwards, plans to spend up to $80 million in upgrades to Al Lang Stadium if the team is part of the MLS expansion. The upgrade would boost the stadium’s capacity from 7,500 to 18,000.

    Stephen Cundiff, president of the Rowdies’ fan group, Ralph’s Mob, believes that the energetic ownership is what will make the difference for the team’s bid.

    “You have an owner that’s willing to spend the money to make it happen,” Cundiff said. “Any sports fan of any team will ever tell you, the one thing they want their owner to do is spend money; and we got Bill Edwards and he’s spending the money.”

    There is excitement among the fans this season as the team has moved to the United Soccer League after spending six seasons in the North American Soccer League.

    Rowdies’ midfielder Luke Boden spent time at Orlando City when it made the transition to the MLS in 2015, and knows what the team has to do to obtain the bid.

    “It was exciting times,” Boden said. “It was down to us to start winning games and trying to win championships to recognition from MLS. With the MLS hopefully around the corner in Tampa, we need to try and win something this year, and as I say, get that MLS attention.”

    The Rowdies have started a social media campaign on Twitter with #MLS2StPete.


Tampa Pride Remembers Pulse Shooting

Ybor City welcomed thousands to the Tampa Pride Parade on Saturday to celebrate the LGBTQ community and pay tribute to victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting.

Centro Ybor was packed with events on the strip of Seventh Avenue, including a parade and street festival, all of which were open to the public.

Tampa Pride featured a special ceremony to remember the lives of victims and survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting last June. This was the first Pride event since the shooting occurred.

“Since the shooting, things have been very different,” said Alisha, a Tampa Pride attendee. “It is nice to see everyone come together to support the cause and still see there are people in the community that support what we are doing here.”

Many local and national celebrities came out to support the festival, including Congresswoman Kathy Castor, Mayor Bob Buckhorn, and Scotty Davis, a radio host from 93.3 FL-Z.

Rue, a gay rights activist, spoke about the changes he’s noticed in the over 25 years he’s been attending Pride parades.

“It was mainly a march saying this is who we are and we’re proud to do it,” Rue said. “We didn’t have any elected officials behind us, you know, sponsors to say, so it’s a really different atmosphere.”

The crowd gathered to pay homage to the victims of the shooting in Orlando, while also celebrating the differences that brought them together for such a unique occasion.