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Mark Parker



The $1.3 billion, 30,000-seat stadium will expand to 35,000 seats for year-round event programming. Renderings: Rays/Hines.

The Tampa Bay Rays have sought a new stadium for 18 years, only for ambitious proposals to fall short like a high-fly ball caught at the warning track.

This time is different.

St. Petersburg and Pinellas County officials and the Rays/Hines development team have an agreement to build a $1.3 billion stadium near Tropicana Field. It will anchor an over $6 billion redevelopment of the Historic Gas Plant District.

Rays President Brian Auld noted that team owner Stuart Sternberg expressed his desire for a new stadium at his introductory press conference in 2005. “And for the first time, not only do we have a site and a stadium design, but also a financing plan,” Auld told the Catalyst.

“And that’s a pretty good start. I think we’re going to be breaking ground in 2024, and that lets us have Opening Day in 2028 in a new facility.”

Michael Harrison (left), senior managing director of Hines, and Rays President Brian Auld discuss new stadium details at Tropicana Field. Photo by Mark Parker.

The Rays expect city and county officials to contribute around $600 million for a 30,000-seat, covered ballpark. The team will cover the remaining $700 million and all cost overruns.

The stadium will encompass 15 to 20 acres, including two event parking garages. The county will own the property and lease it to the city, which will sub-lease it to the Rays.

The 30-year lease agreement comes with 40-year extension options. Auld said the $1.3 billion price tag accounts for increasing construction costs and noted that the previous four stadium proposals came in under $1 billion.

The new ballpark will feature a pavilion-like roof to promote openness while shielding players and fans from the elements. While enclosed and air conditioned, background materials state that “transparent glazing and operable walls” will “bring the outside in.”

The architectural style will embrace the Florida lifestyle and Tampa Bay’s “natural beauty and character.” The development team also pledged to showcase the area’s culture and history.

“Largely through accidents of history, ballpark design and urban planning theory, we sit on 85 acres of continuous land in the middle of downtown,” Auld said.

Background materials state that “the ballpark will be a gathering place where everyone feels welcome, uniting the Tampa Bay region and connecting diverse, multi-generational fans.”

“The (Atlanta) Braves had to go to Cobb County for this. We have this totally unique opportunity to build the next generation of ballpark – and an urban design in partnership with a world-class organization and firms – because of where we sit today.

“You will not find another parcel of land like this in a city as large or cool or up-and-coming as St. Petersburg anywhere on the planet. And we’re prepared to take advantage of that.”

He also believes the plan has improved in the eight months since Mayor Ken Welch selected the Ray/Hines development team. Auld explained that the group presented what they thought were the best answers to Welch’s 23 focus areas in their proposal.

Auld said they were able to “hone in” on what mattered most to Welch during the negotiation process. “I know the price that we’re paying for the land – which was already the highest price of any respondent in the RFP (request for proposals) – has gone up,” Auld said.

The developers will purchase about 70 acres surrounding the stadium for $105.3 million, an $8.8 million increase. City officials are responsible for $130 million in public infrastructure costs, $20.4 million less than the initial proposal.

The transformational redevelopment will encompass eight million square feet. Background materials state that the “vibrant mixed-use district and new community ballpark” would honor the predominantly Black Historic Gas Plant neighborhood’s legacy.

Michael Harrison, senior managing director for Hines, noted that the development team increased the project’s affordable housing component. The new district will feature at least 1,200 affordable units, up from 859 in the original proposal.

The 600 onsite affordable units come with 99-year rent restriction covenants. Hines will also build at least 100 onsite independent senior living units.

“The mayor really has a high priority for senior housing,” Harrison said. “That’s something we hadn’t considered before.”

The development team plans to rehabilitate and activate Booker Creek as part of 14 acres of new greenspace.

In exchange, Harrison said he asked city administrators to accelerate infrastructure timelines to ensure the stadium is ready for Opening Day 2028. He added that Welch and Administrator Rob Gerdes sought the most community benefits while ensuring the project remained financially viable.

“I think we’ve been able to do that,” Harrison said.

He said Hines did not respond to former Mayor Rick Kriseman’s request for proposals as keeping the Rays was not a priority. Harrison credited Welch for his “thoughtful, proactive” and “in it to win it together” approach.

Auld noted that Welch reached out to Sternberg and requested another at-bat. He said that moxie “is what it takes to keep Major League Baseball in St. Petersburg.”

Auld said Commission Chair Janet Long was equally adamant about keeping the Rays in Pinellas County. He added that city council members, who pushed for the former mayor to complete an agreement with the Rays before selecting a developer, have remained supportive.

“A bunch of folks who were really ready to get creative, to try to understand one another and work in partnership,” Auld said. “We need people that we trust. And that we’re eager to do business with to make it happen. We finally have that.”

An aerial rendering of the stadium and surrounding Historic Gas Plant District redevelopment.



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  1. Avatar


    September 19, 2023at11:30 am

    Keep Ferg’s open and the Ray’s in St. Pete!

  2. Avatar

    Ryan Todd

    September 19, 2023at3:40 pm

    Taxpayers should not have to pay $600 million dollars to find a private development. Send the Rays to Canada like they threatened to do.

  3. Avatar

    Jeff Waechter

    September 19, 2023at5:10 pm

    @Ryan Todd I’m pretty sure the majority of the funding will come from the bedtax revenue, so thank the tourist for spending money in the surrounding cities. I’d like to see the direct impact of having a major league team has on the economy. Then we can start to talk about where the money is really coming from. If we lost the Rays and the revenue generated from the Stadium, do you really think our taxes would drop?

  4. Avatar

    Concerned Citizen

    September 19, 2023at5:18 pm

    I’m with Ryan Todd! I am a retired Pinellas County educator trying to make ends meet on my pension and SS benefits! I cannot afford more in taxes! I guess it’s time to FIGHT for Grey Rights!

  5. Jennie Renfrow

    Jennie Renfrow

    September 19, 2023at5:50 pm

    I’m happy about the plan but I can’t help but wonder if and when the main library will ever be reopened?! It’s a travesty that our city doesn’t have a landmark main library’😖

  6. Avatar

    Fred Moshy

    September 19, 2023at6:39 pm

    Congratulations Mayor Welch and Commissioner Long. Great job in securing this huge attraction for generations to come. Build that stadium, but please, not to much else after that. Too much construction downtown. Again, congrats and my thanks.

  7. Avatar

    Mike C

    September 20, 2023at7:51 am

    Wow, $600M in Taxes. All for the Rays, but not at the community expense. Why is the city funding it? Especially when so many professional franchises are funding their stadium developments privately. So, every time my family comes to visit they need to pay for the ball park? The commanders just sold for $6B. The Rays are likely worth close to $2B. Great win, but at the cost of the community.

  8. Avatar

    Ryan Todd

    September 20, 2023at9:52 pm

    Mike C., the city is building it because Mayor Welch is a Rays’ plant. Mayor Kreisman told the Rays they couldn’t have public funding, so the Rays found a candidate that they could own.

    This still has to go to a public hearing and vote, right? Vote No and send the Rays and Welch to Canada!

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