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.

History, future of cigars in Ybor City

When thinking of Ybor City, cigars usually come to mind. This is because the city wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the cigar business that Vicente Martinez-Ybor brought to the Tampa Bay area. Martinez-Ybor came to what is now Ybor City in 1885, and the rest is history.

The cigar industry brought several different cultures to Tampa, with the largest group being Cubans. Cubans brought their techniques for hand-rolling tobacco into cigars, creating a huge boom in population for Ybor City.

There are about a dozen cigar shops in Ybor. Some are strictly distributors and others produce hand-rolled cigars. One thing they all have in common is a strong customer base. The stores serve local customers, as well as those from other states and countries.

John Watson, a retiree, works at Metropolitan Cigars in his free time. A cigar smoker all of his life, Watson uses his broad knowledge of cigars to help customers find the right cigar for them.

“We get a lot of tourists in here from Europe,” Watson said. “They come in here specifically looking for cigars.”

For the past several decades, highly sought after Cuban cigars have been absent from Ybor City and the rest of the country. These cigars have been considered the forbidden fruit in the cigar world due to their taste and unavailability. However, negotiations between the United States and Cuba have made the possibility of Cuban cigars in Ybor more prevalent.

Dr. August Mauser, a retired University of South Florida professor from the USF Department of Special Education, has been operating his own cigar business— AJ’s Cigars To Go of Tampa—for the past decade. Mauser has been able to find Cuban cigars a few times in the past and finds their future interesting.

“With Cuba opening up, that’s going to mean that we’re going to have Cuban cigars, but it won’t be at least a couple years,” Mauser said. “Cuban tobacco is the finest in the world.”

The future of the cigar industry is up in the air, but cigar lovers can find a multitude of quality cigars in Ybor City. Cigars have built Ybor City and are continuing to bring people to Tampa.