The Tampa Bay Rays do not have a place to hold spring training, but that could change soon.
Charlotte Sports Park, where the Rays traditionally hold spring training, has too much damage from Hurricane Ian, and there isn’t enough time to fix it before the games are set to begin.
The City of Fort Myers is trying to get the Rays to play at City of Palms Park.
If you bring the big leaguers to Southwest Florida, the fans will show up and pack the ballpark. For people like Bill Parry, it’s enough reason to move here.
“We used to go to Tampa every year for spring training. Little bit higher priced, so we moved down to Fort Myers, and we like the area because it has the Red Sox and the Twins,” said Perry.
The Red Sox used to call City of Palms Park their spring training home until they moved out in 2011.
The park is currently not being used during spring training, and that’s what council member Fred Burson is telling the Tampa Bay Rays.
“It’s still a long shot at best. We’ve got some work that we need to do. I’ve been told it would be accomplished in time to have them here. The rays are also looking at other facilities. So I’m just trying to get in the mix,” said Burson.
Parry wants the Rays in Fort Myers. “The more American League teams we have down here, the more chances we have of the Yankees coming down here to play the American League teams.”
The ballpark would have to be touched up to host spring training again. The city estimates it would cost between $100,000 and $150,000. Before any of the upgrades can be made to City of Palms Park, the funding for them will need to be approved by Fort Myers City Council.
Burson believes that’s worth it for what it would mean to the downtown area, which is still recovering from Hurricane Ian.
“If we can bring 2300 people to downtown Fort Myers to see what we have to offer, I think it would benefit the businesses, and it would help revitalize the image of Fort Myers after the hurricane. To let everybody know we’re up and running,” Burson said.
Burson said he believes the Rays may also be looking into moving to the Atlanta Braves spring training facility in North Port or to the Orlando area. He says the advantage of City of Palms is the Rays wouldn’t be sharing the park with another team.
WINK News has reached out to the Rays to see what they plan on doing for spring training. They said are working through all their options and will let us know when they have more information to share.