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Cathie Wood, Rays discuss South by St. Pete festival

Mark Parker



Tampa Bay Rays president Matt Silverman at the March 28 State of the Economy event. He recently confirmed that the team and Cathie Wood, founder of ARK Invest, have discussed holding a tech-focused festival at a reimagined Gas Plant District. Photo by Mark Parker.

Cathie Wood began expressing her desire to pilot a local version of Austin’s South by Southwest (SXSW) festival soon after relocating ARK Invest to St. Petersburg. The Tampa Bay Rays plan to host year-round events in and around a new ballpark.

Those worlds are colliding.

Wood reasserted her intention to establish something akin to a South by St. Pete event at the mayor’s State of the Economy summit, held March 28 at the ARK Innovation Center. She then announced her support for the stadium and Historic Gas Plant District redevelopment plan.

Wood said ARK “would love to fill” a new ballpark in the offseason. Rays President Matt Silverman recently confirmed that talks between the two prominent organizations are ongoing.

“We’ve brainstormed together what the new district can provide St. Pete in terms of a venue for showcase events,” Silverman told the Catalyst. “It is designed … to accommodate a range of events, from small conferences to large festivals.

“And that’s what happens when you can master plan a development that has a 30,000-seat venue, a 4-to-6,000-seat venue, a conference hotel and other amenities that bring it all together.”

The Jan. 27 Royal Rumble brought 48,044 people from all 50 states and 40 countries to Tropicana Field. The World Wrestling Entertainment event’s economic impact topped $47 million.

Local government, tourism and business leaders are now clamoring to bring more large-scale events, like the Royal Rumble, to St. Pete. Wood, who often calls St. Pete the “next Austin,” noted that SXSW is a financial windfall for the Texas tech and culture hub.

The nine-day event, which now includes hundreds of musical performances, a film festival and myriad exhibitions, generated $381 million in 2023. Silverman said the team has the flexibility and desire to “bring as many events as possible” to a reimagined Gas Plant District “throughout the entire year.”

“Our goal is that in 2028, we have a district that includes the ballpark and entertainment venue, hotel, office building, residential – along with public gathering places,” Silverman added. “And we want to begin programming its use as soon as possible so that it’s active and energized that entire first year.”

That requires team officials to establish relationships with event organizers long before construction is complete. The team already has a prominent local partner in Wood.

She explained several “big ideas” for the area at the State of the Economy. Those included launching an early-stage venture fund, establishing the Innovation Center as a preeminent startup incubator and providing emerging technology educational programming through an expanding partnership with Pinellas County Schools.

Cathie Wood, founder of ARK Invest, called the Historic Gas Plant District’s redevelopment “essential” to St. Petersburg’s future. Photo by Mark Parker.

However, Wood said the “biggest big idea has to do with the next Austin.” She presented at the 2023 SXSW, and said ARK studied the festival’s impact.

Wood characterized her plans as a “pilot of the pilot” that could become Tampa Bay’s version of Austin’s signature event. She noted that tech companies sponsor SXSW and St. Petersburg is “naturally gifted” with the festival’s cultural aspects.

“We would like to turn this week – or whatever it becomes – into a time and place where people will come to learn how their lives are going to change,” Wood said. “Students, teachers, parents, grandparents … these technologies are going to transform the world completely.”

Those include ARK’s five target industries: Robotics, energy storage, genomics, artificial intelligence and blockchain applications. The technologies would feature prominently at a South by St. Pete.

Wood used a longstanding Disney World attraction as a comparison. The Carousel of Progress stage show highlights past and future life-changing technologies, and she said a local version would showcase the importance of being on “the right side of change.”

Attendees explore new technologies at the 2023 South by Southwest festival. Photo: Aaron Rogosin, sxsw.com.

Wood then expressed her support for the Rays and the city’s $1.3 billion stadium plan. “In other words, you can count ARK in,” she said.

Silverman said the project will “not be without its hiccups.” However, he believes the result will be “powerful” and a “great source of pride.” Silverman called redevelopment ideal to host baseball, concerts, graduations, festivals and the “ARK of Progress Carousel, or whatever we’re going to call this.”

“We’ve got to workshop that,” Silverman added.

After the event, Wood said the team’s local vision “fits hand-in-glove with what we want to do.” She also called the redevelopment “essential” for St. Petersburg’s future.

“I think that the Big Ideas summit, or whatever we end up calling it, and what they’re doing in the Gas Plant District will align beautifully,” Wood said. “And we could do many, many more projects together, especially in the offseason.”



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  1. Avatar

    Ellie Hazzard

    May 2, 2024at4:33 pm

    Cynthia Sweeney, you speak the truth, and the residents of SP need more of it.

  2. Avatar

    Steve Sullivan

    April 27, 2024at6:49 pm

    I would follow her versus the commenters on here. Investing is a long game not short term

  3. Avatar

    Bill Parker

    April 26, 2024at10:43 am

    Ark is currently publicly faceplanting, and frankly Silverman and his buddies need to pay for their storefront themselves, not extort billions of public money from the citizens.
    While the general public feels the pain of increasing debt loads, inflation and high prices, these grifters should be shouted down as they try to extort more money from the public.
    Not to mention the assumption we should destroy the perfectly functioning stadium we already have (which is not paid off).
    City has to be fully prepared to maintain our infrastructure , services and prepare for emergencies.
    This farce of a deal would spell disaster for our city.

  4. Avatar


    April 24, 2024at11:39 pm

    Cathie talks a good game, but the Wall Street Journal begs to differ… from TODAY’s WSJ:

    “Wood’s Popular ARK Funds Sink, U.S. Investors Withdraw $2.2 Billion


    Cathie Wood’s investors are jumping ship.

    Investors have pulled a net $2.2 billion from the six actively-managed exchange-traded funds at her ARC Investment Management this year, a withdrawal that dwarfs the outflows in all of 2023. Total assets have dropped 30% in less than 4 months to $11.1 billion–after peaking at $59 billion in early 2021, when ARK was the world’s largest ETF manager.”

    Maybe she’s not the smartest one in the room?? Maybe the Rays/Hines deal isn’t so great!

  5. Avatar

    Shane N

    April 24, 2024at4:31 pm

    South by St. Pete? Carousel of Progress? Why do we need to ride others coattails when we have an identity and ideas or our own.

    Also, this has been attempted before, a few times, with modest support or success. But, maybe it was a timing thing? I’m sure Ms. Wood and the Rays folks have already considered this given their resounding success in other areas.

  6. Avatar


    April 23, 2024at4:50 pm

    Morningstar considers the ARK Innovation fund to be the third highest “wealth destroyer” investment fund from 2014 to 2023.

  7. Avatar

    Steven Brady

    April 23, 2024at4:00 pm

    Scott, have you seen how her fund has performed? Look it up folks. Get out your phones and look up AARK.

    I don’t think I’d rely upon her for any advice on any subject. But that’s just my opinion.

  8. Avatar

    Cynthia Sweeney

    April 22, 2024at6:43 pm

    I do not believe St Petersburg has a identity problem. I do believe that the mayor and Matt Silverman want a new stadium.
    Promises were made before the current stadium was built. Were they kept?

  9. Avatar

    Donna Kostreva

    April 22, 2024at6:28 pm

    D’accord, Ryan Todd!
    By the sound of it though, it seems Ms Wood has everything already figured out.

  10. Avatar

    Ryan Todd

    April 22, 2024at4:10 pm

    The next Austin?
    No thanks. I like being St. Pete.

  11. Scott Wagman

    Scott Wagman

    April 22, 2024at4:07 pm

    We can only imagine the synergies that will develop with the combination of entities involved in this redevelopment.
    Thanks to Cathie Wood and ARK for her commitment to our community.
    The Rays/Hines group plan will be a wonderful catalyst for so many things. Bring it on!

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