ST. PETERSBURG - Building the new stadium proposed Wednesday would give the Rays a splashy new home for 81 games each summer.
And it likely would lead to one midsummer classic.
The Rays "absolutely" would be in line to host their first All-Star Game a few seasons after the opening of their new park, MLB president Bob DuPuy said Wednesday.
The site of the game is often awarded to new stadiums and is alternated between American and National League cities. The Rays could move to the top of the AL list quickly after the planned 2012 opening.
"The commissioner has made it a practice of showcasing - this year is an exception because we're celebrating the history of Yankee Stadium - new ballparks," DuPuy said. "There haven't been as many in the American League as in the National League. A new American League ballpark would be very helpful."
GRAND PRIX OFF TRACK?: The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg apparently could fit, with a nip here and a tuck there, around the planned new stadium.
That has Andretti Green Promotions officials feeling very much like an afterthought, especially as AGP co-owner Kevin Savoree refuted claims by Rays senior VP Michael Kalt that his group had been consulted about the project.
"I don't think they care about our car race," Savoree said. "I'm pretty confident they consider the race an inconvenience to their baseball operation."
The current contract for the race, held each April, runs through 2009 and Rays officials said their plans could accommodate future races.
To make room for the stadium, Bayshore Drive, which forms the scenic backdrop of the 1.88-mile race course, would be shifted slightly as the basin is filled in but still could be part of the race course. The entry to the so-called "Kink" that currently bends left toward Turn 10 would be transformed into a long, gradual "S."
ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?: The new stadium could also hold about 35,000 fans for football, and the Rays have had some preliminary talks with officials of the Big East Conference about establishing a bowl game.
WORLD ACCORDING TO ZIM: The newfangled stadium caught the eye of resident oldtimer Don Zimmer, the Rays' 76-year-old senior adviser: "When I first heard about this thing, I thought to myself, 'How is this ever going to work?' And then I caught myself and said, 'Wait a minute. This Stu Sternberg, he didn't make all that money by being a dummy.'"