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Only one bidder for new Rays ballpark design gig: Populous

After Dan Meis of MEIS architects dropped out of the running to land the contract for a new Rays ballpark design contract, the evaluation committee will move forward on talks with the only remaining bidders: Populous.

The evaluation committee, made up of five St. Petersburg employees and three Rays officials, met yesterday to review the bids for the new Rays ballpark design contract. Only two bidders emerged: Populous and MEIS architects. No surprise: Populous has enjoyed a long-lasting relationship with the Rays, going back to a proposed St. Petersburg waterfront ballpark with a distinct sailing design and the renovations to the team’s spring-training base, Charlotte Sports Park. The Rays have been clear about their desire to partner with Populous, listing the sports-architecture firm as its architect on the 2022 submissions for the makeover of the Tropicana Field site.

Before the committee met, however, Dan Meis of MEIS architects withdrew from the competition for new Rays ballpark design, per the Tampa Bay Times:

But on Nov. 7, Dan Meis, founder and managing principal of MEIS architects, wrote a letter to the city’s procurement office stating that his firm had decided to no longer participate. He said the proposed format of a 30-minute presentation would not give adequate time to explain “what we believe would be our particular strengths and qualifications for a project such as this.”

“We have also seen and heard how devoted the Rays are to their long relationship with Populous, and how committed the City is to supporting this partnership, and thus respectfully withdraw our team from consideration,” Meis wrote. “We appreciate that you provided an opportunity for other teams to compete but it is sometimes the case in our industry that a qualified team is so far out in front, it makes it extremely difficult for those other teams to justify the investment to throw their hat in the ring for consideration.”

The Rays are proposing a $1.3-billion fixed-roof ballpark, with partner Hines planning to invest more than $6.5 billion in St. Petersburg over 20 years, creating the largest (nearly 8 million square feet) mixed-use development project in Tampa Bay history. The development would happen at the current Tropicana Field site.  In total, the city would pay $417.5 million toward the $6 billion development, with $130 million going to infrastructure improvements across the site (for things like streets and water) and $287.5 million specifically on the ballpark. This money would be generated with a bond sale; no general funds would be involved. Pinellas County bed-tax proceeds would be tapped for $312.5 million toward ballpark construction. The remainder of the ballpark construction cost, $600 million, would come from the team, as well as any cost overruns.

The committee will next negotiate a final deal for the new Rays ballpark design.

Rendering courtesy Tampa Bay Rays and Hines.

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