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Tropicana Field site development halted; new bidding to include Rays ballpark

Tampa Bay RaysA bidding process to redevelop the 86-acre Tropicana Field site has been scrapped by St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch,  with the intention of reopening the bidding to include a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark.

There’s no direct indication that this action was taken at the behest of the Rays ownership, and it could just be Welch wants to have something tangible on the table as the Rays continue to evaluate the team’s future. With Tampa and Hillsborough County officials saying that they were preparing to woo the Rays with a solid financial offer–albeit at the end of 2021, with nothing tangible on the table yet–it could just be Welch wanted to be able to offer an alternative.

There has been talk of some quiet discussions taking place about the Rays staying in Tampa Bay, more in terms of informal informational talks than anything else. But with Rob Manfred once again stepping to the mic and announcing there needs to be a sense of urgency about a new Rays ballpark, and the Tropicana Field lease ending after the 2027 season, the team is on the clock to make a deal work.

Changing conditions also caused Welch to cancel the older RFP and issue a new one, per a statement from his office:

“As a County Commissioner, I was fully engaged in this process — attending meetings and presentations, speaking with the Kriseman administration and prospective development groups in my role as the County Commissioner whose district was based in St. Petersburg. I am impressed with the efforts from the two finalists in the current RFP process — Midtown Development and Sugar Hill Community Partners. They have listened to our community and have responded with their vision of the development of these 86 acres in accordance with our community needs in terms of housing, office space, meeting space, green space and impactful economic development, including inclusive opportunities for local and minority businesses. There has also been robust community engagement in developing a vision for this generational project,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Kenneth T. Welch.

“However, our environment has changed in many ways since the initial RFP was issued in July of 2020, and we must ensure the RFP meets our current environment and realities and incorporates the most up-to-date information.” 

Some of those changes include a reevaluation of the need for major office space at a time when many companies are allowing more workers to work from home, the need for affordable and workforce housing, the rising cost of construction projects and the changing nature of community benefits in a modern economic development. (If anything sounds familiar, it should–the Oakland A’s are addressing the same issues in developing a new Howard Terminal ballpark.)

With the previous RFP scrapped, a new RFP release is now tentatively scheduled for August, according to Welch’s office.

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