Fans split over Rays’ spring training facility in Pasco


PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The Florida Legislature has approved $35 million to build a new training facility for the Tampa Bay Rays in the Starkey Ranch area of ​​Pasco County.

The facility would include a clubhouse, indoor and outdoor practice facilities and stadium seating. However, it is not currently scheduled to be the team’s spring training home, as the Rays are currently playing spring training games in Port Charlotte.

State Sen. Danny Burgess originally proposed the plan, but did not immediately return calls for comment on Friday.

Some fans like Randy Schulzki are excited about the idea.

“I’d love to see that. I’m a big Rays fan and I love baseball, so I’m really excited about that too,” Schulzki said.

Others who live in the area are worried about traffic.

“It’s going to be bad, it’s going to be really bad. I mean, people won’t be able to leave their homes at a certain time,” Debbie Visicaro said.

Former state senator Mike Bennett opposes it for other reasons.

“It’s an issue I’ve fought my whole time in the Legislative Assembly and I’m still against it today,” said Bennett, who has long fought against the use of taxpayers’ money. to pay for professional sports franchise facilities.

“If you can afford to pay a pitcher or an outfielder $40 million or $50 million a year to throw a baseball 90 feet, I think you could probably pay for your own stadium,” Bennett said.

He also thinks the complex would have little benefit for the average person.

“When you look at a guy fishing scallops in Cedar Key and trying to make a living, he can’t even afford to get the ticket to go to some of these programs and yet you want to take his money to support him. , I have a real problem with that,” Bennett said.

Aaron Derksen manages the Starkey market and thinks a Rays training complex would be good for business.

“I think it’s exceptional. I think it creates a community. You know, of course I’m a huge Rays fan, so glad they’re staying here and we don’t have to share them,” Derksen said.

Although the $35 million is currently in the state budget, Gov. Ron DeSantis could still use his veto to cut it.

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