After revising RFP requirements for Tropicana Field redevelopment in August, the city of St. Petersburg received four proposals from developers, including a pitch from the Tampa Bay Rays and developer Hines.
In response to the Historic Gas Plant District Request for Proposals (RFP), the city received plans from 50 Plus 1 Sports, Hines & Tampa Bay Rays, Restoration Associates, and Sugar Hill Community Partners. The proposals covered development of the portion of the Historic Gas Plant District currently home to Tropicana Field and affiliated parking, totaling approximately 86 acres.
“We commend 50 Plus 1 Sports, Hines & Tampa Bay Rays, Restoration Associates, and Sugar Hill Community Partners for their diligent efforts to submit proposals that will fuel inclusive progress and equitable development for future generations who will live, visit and do business in our city,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Kenneth T. Welch in a press release announcing the responses “We will review the proposers’ plans with a keen eye on their interpretation of affordable and workforce housing; office and meeting space; arts and culture; research, innovation, and education; recreation; open space, healthy and sustainable development; and intentional equity. We look forward to engaging the community as we determine the future of this historically and economically vital part of St. Petersburg, and the Tampa Bay Region.”
The original RFP did not provide for a new ballpark as part of the mix, but on August 26 the city issued a new RFP that included 17.3 acres set aside for a new Rays ballpark, an additional emphasis on equitable redevelopment, specific requirements for affordable and workforce housing and other specs designed to address current economic and societal conditions and community sentiment. Eventually all four proposals will be released by the city.
However, the Rays and developer Hines decided to issue a press release detailing their own vision for the site. This doesn’t mean the pair are totally committed to the plan, and it certainly doesn’t mean the team will be abandoning plans to pursue a Tampa ballpark. But it does give the team an option–and a negotiating chip with Tampa and Hillsborough County.
The Hines/Rays plan calls for a 7-million-square-foot redevelopment plan and a mixed-use district, including more than 5,700 multi-family housing units, 1.4 million square feet of office space, 300,000 square feet of retail space, 700 hotel rooms, 600 senior living residences, a 2,500-person entertainment venue and various civic uses. According to a Hines/Rays press release, “the site would include over 20 new urban blocks and provide public benefit on over half of the land area, in addition to nine sustainability strategies that will advance the city’s priorities and position St. Petersburg as a leading city for large-scale resilience.”
Also participating in the proposal: Gensler serving as the masterplan architect, working alongside St. Petersburg-based Storyn Studio for Architecture; Washington, D.C.-based Dantes Partners serving as the affordable housing partner and leading the development of more than 850 affordable and workforce housing units on-site. In addition, Dantes Partners will work together with Hines and the Rays will improve and create approximately 600 residences off-site through various homeownership grants and rental assistance programs in St. Petersburg.
According to the Rays, the new ballpark would cost more than $1 billion and located next to Tropicana Field, which would be used until the new facility opens. Designed on the small site–a capacity of only 30,000 or so–the new ballpark would feature a fixed roof, turf field and large openable windows a la Globe Life Field. Interestingly, it’s designed to feature only a single deck of seating–no upper deck, in an appearance that seems more like a large arena than a traditional ballpark. From the Tampa Bay Times:
“It’s a fixed roof with operable walls,” said Rays chief development officer Melanie Lenz. “So we’re able to open the walls up and invite the community in but have a fixed roof to guarantee comfort and gain certainty (against rain being an issue).”
Home plate would be at the south end of the plot with batters facing north. The north and west sides would have most of the windows, which could be opened on the few days when air conditioning isn’t necessary and provide breezes.
The roof would be made out of a hard deck with sections of the fluorine-based plastic ETFE which can let in diffused light.
The Rays, working with the well-known Populous architectural firm, said they have not yet designed the interior of the stadium which, according to the request for proposal, is supposed to be a state-of-the-art, community-centric, engaging ballpark. As part of that, team officials said the stadium would be available for use for myriad other events, and walkways would be open on non-event days.
“For decades, Hines has demonstrated the knowledge, expertise and reliability to deliver complex projects of this size and magnitude,” Rays president Matt Silverman said via press statement. “Hines has been acquainted with this site for 15 years, and we know that Hines will be here 15 years from now, fulfilling its promises and vision for the Historic Gas Plant District.
“St. Petersburg deserves a world-class development partner with a track record of steering projects through the inevitable economic cycles we will face. With Hines leading this effort, we gain greater certainty of quality and timely completion. Together we can create a vibrant, equitable neighborhood that will be a wonderful home for Rays baseball for generations to come.”
The city still needs to review each proposal. The selection process will also include a Community Presentation on January 4, 2023, at the Coliseum. There, the public will be invited to hear each proposer provide an overview of their respective plans. A final decision will be announced by Mayor Welch at his first State of the City address slated for the end of January 2023; a final agreement on development isn’t planned until next fall.
Renderings courtesy Tampa Bay Rays.
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