To keep the Tampa Bay Rays in the city, St. Petersburg officials are now envisioning a ballpark and other development on the Tropicana Field site.
Thus far, the Rays have looked at a variety of locations in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties for a new ballpark. While it has long been agreed that Tropicana Field is not conducive to Major League Baseball, it does not mean that the ballpark’s site is a lost cause. In fact, with its viability from Interstate 175 and proximity to downtown St. Petersburg and the waterfront, the location presents plenty of potential for mixed-use development.
With that in mind, St. Petersburg commissioned a preliminary design from HKS that includes an interesting amenity: an open-air ballpark for the Rays. What is being pitched is a ballpark that would open up to the surrounding area, which would feature waterways and neighborhoods that include residential and commercial development. The ballpark would not be built on the same footprint at Tropicana Field, but instead take the place of a current U-Haul moving and storage facility.
While it is known that the area around Tropicana Field has been discussed by Pinellas County as a potential site, the Rays have plenty of other options in the region, including locations that would put them closer to downtown Tampa. Therefore, it is not a given that a new ballpark in this location will entice the team, but if nothing else, the city and HKS are presenting some visions as to what could happen at the site. More from the Tampa Bay Business Journal:
At the center of HKS Architecture’s preliminary plan is expanded transportation and transit access in what project manager Randy Morton describes as “maybe the most important” component of the redevelopment plan.
“The first idea is about knitting the city back together,” Morton said.
He emphasized using key transportation corridors for expanded public transit, including the future Bus Rapid Transit lined planned for First Avenues North and South connecting to the downtown ferry service set to launch this November (that project is only guaranteed for six months as a pilot project, and its future depends on that initial success.)
The HKS vision utilizes the existing highway structure for ease of access, but ultimately would eliminate Interstate 175 along the south side of the site and turn it into a boulevard ripe for high-end possibilities like condos and shops. That vision, he admits, is easy to draw on a diagram, but much more difficult to incorporate.
“It requires a lot of political will and community support,” Morton said during a presentation Monday night. “But with that the economic power grows even more … and the promise of something good is what changes the way people perceive places.”
Ultimately the Rays have a lot of options, so this development will face plenty of competition. However, it could start the conversation about the best use for the Tropicana Field site, even if baseball no longer remains in the area.
Rendering courtesy of HKS.
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