St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch announced the choice of a Tampa Bay Rays/Hines bid for Tropicana Field redevelopment, but the Rays warn that such a project will be a drawn-out process.
The city had solicited bids for the redevelopment of the Historic Gas Plant District), a traditionally Black area of the city, and received pitches 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; the city required bids to include an unusual new Rays ballpark (shown below).
The RFP originally did not include a Rays ballpark requirement, but it was added after city officials deduced it was their best shot at retaining the team, which has also been pitching a new Tampa ballpark. And, not surprisingly, the city made an initial determination to move forward with Hines and the Rays, in an announcement made today by Welch in his State of the City address:
Decades after the city destroyed the historically Black Gas Plant District to build the stadium, Welch has positioned the redevelopment as an essential source of affordable housing and business opportunities for minority communities.
“The best path for progress is the path that includes opportunities for everyone,” he said. “And yes, in St. Petersburg, history does matter.”
The Rays addressed the decision in a press conference right after Welch’s speech and warned that any Tropicana Field redevelopment at this time is just the beginning of the process, per Brian Auld:
“Here we are, at the end of the beginning. We made it to the starting line, but we have a long race ahead of us,” explained Brian Auld, one of two team presidents.
Among the obstacles still ahead – Auld said — are tax agreements with the city and county, public input, and making sure to honor the history of the Gas Plant District.
It’s not clear how long the process to get the Rays to commit to St. Petersburg could last.
That the Rays were chosen as a developer isn’t a surprise: all four bids seem to address the city’s desire for affordable housing and other development, and it has the virtue of potentially keeping the Rays in St. Pete. There are plenty of finances to discuss, and multiple municipalities–St. Petersburg and Pinellas County–to involve as stakeholders.
Renderings courtesy Tampa Bay Rays.
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