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City releases Rays development agreement revisions

Mark Parker



Mayor Ken Welch (center) addresses St. Petersburg City Council members at one of two Historic Gas Plant District redevelopment workshops. Photo by Mark Parker.

Part one of two.

Mayor Ken Welch has repeatedly referred to Historic Gas Plant District and Tropicana Field redevelopment negotiations as an iterative process fueled by feedback. Administrators made several dozen contractual revisions following two St. Petersburg City Council workshops.

City officials released an itemized list of key development agreement changes Monday afternoon. The documents are part of a July 16 Committee of the Whole presentation.

Eight council members will vote July 18 on 12 agreements regarding plans for a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark and a reimagined Gas Plant. They must also approve a succession of bond sales totaling $291.5 million for the stadium and $140 million for area infrastructure.

“These agreements provide the framework necessary to redevelop the current Tropicana Field site, ensuring the continued operations of the Tampa Bay Rays, approximately $6.5 billion of new development, significant job creation and community benefits, and one of largest economic development projects in the region’s history,” reads a memo attached to the cache of documents.

Glass paneling is a prominent feature of the Tampa Bay Rays’ proposed new ballpark. City Councilmember Brandi Gabbard wants to ensure it can withstand a major hurricane. Rendering provided.

Here are revisions regarding stadium agreements made after the June 12 workshop:

The administration can no longer waive funding release conditions, including the Rays and Hines development team’s construction and financial contribution milestones. Each subsidiary agent must submit a “firm commitment letter” showing they can cover the remaining stadium costs.

The revisions also increase the city council’s power of approval. A majority must now agree to any “definitive element” changes related to the $1.37 billion ballpark’s development and funding agreement.

Minneapolis-based Mortenson Construction, the project’s recently selected construction manager at risk (CMAR), and Kansas City-based Populous, its design firm, must advertise subcontracting opportunities in St. Petersburg and Pinellas County general circulation, trade association or small, minority and women-owned business-focused media.

Stakeholders discussed environmental resiliency early and often at the June 12 workshop. Councilmember Brandi Gabbard was the first of several to request a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification mandate.

Welch called that a “reasonable” ask after the meeting. “We’re going to build to that standard, anyway, why not make that more explicit?” he told the Catalyst.

New documents state that the Rays/Hines must use “good faith” and “commercially reasonable” efforts to achieve LEED certification. The developers must also implement “the latest” resilience and sustainable design practices – and provide documentation highlighting those efforts.

The development team will conduct energy and carbon analyses during the design process. Administrators have also mandated plans for solar power arrays.

Gabbard previously stressed the importance of including electric vehicle charging stations. The revised agreements state that at least 20% of all parking garage spaces “will be EV ready” with associated power infrastructure, and 2% will have complete charging stations installed.

In addition, Populous will design stadium entrances above the city’s 100-year floodplain. The firm will also strategically locate critical mechanical, electrical and plumbing infrastructure to mitigate flooding potential.

The stadium site will have a dewatering system to move surface or groundwater “as needed.” The development team must exceed city specifications when retaining and managing stormwater or reusing it onsite. Byron Chambers, senior principal for Populous, expects to capture and repurpose three million gallons annually – “a big thing.”

A diagram highlighting various features around a restored Booker Creek.

The stadium development and funding agreement now includes a footnote stipulating that the Rays must repay the city $1.45 million for legal expenses and consultancy fees. The team must similarly reimburse the county $1.25 million.

The city council must approve replacement parking areas during construction. That was a specific concern vocalized by Councilmember Lisset Hanewicz during the June 12 workshop.

At the meeting, Councilmember Gina Driscoll said all 3,500 city employees deserved a complimentary ticket to a game rather than the previously suggested allotment of 2,000. The Rays agreed to provide each person with a ticket to an annual event celebrating the City of St. Petersburg.

Previously unreleased agreements

The Rays must own and operate the franchise “except in limited circumstances.” However, owner Stuart Sternberg can sell the team without the city’s blessing if he receives Major League Baseball’s approval, and his successor assumes all previously established obligations.

Sternberg can transfer less than 50% of his ownership stake with the city’s approval under similar conditions. The documents also contain several stipulations related to the development team’s financing obligations.

A previously unreleased operating agreement article states that the developers will secure financing through “separate pools of collateral.” That will include stadium operation and team revenue.

However, sub-use agreements will determine “the exact mix of collateral.” The document adds that the article “required comprehensive analysis and provisions” to accommodate financing complexities and involved input from the lead lender’s attorneys.

Part Two will highlight revisions related to the surrounding district’s redevelopment requirements after the May 9 workshop.

Editor’s note: A change was made to correctly reflect a request made by Councilmember Gina Driscoll rather than Councilmember Richie Floyd. 





  1. Avatar

    John Donovan

    July 10, 2024at5:19 pm

    It won’t be called Gas Plant by most. History won’t matter. That does no one any good. Why not a pleasant sounding name? Collect licensing fees.

  2. Avatar


    July 10, 2024at3:46 pm

    I too will accept my free game ticket as a resident taxpayer.

  3. Avatar

    Alan DeLisle

    July 10, 2024at6:01 am

    “Good faith” and “commercially reasonable” is not a win. It means nothing like the rest of this agreements that shift risk to the city. The only result of these agreements is to show how not to do it in the future, a perfect example of how a city should never negotiate a public-private agreement. It’s what happens when five Councilmembers “sellout” way before negotiations start and the Mayor folds.

    It is sad but be strong St Pete.

  4. Avatar

    S. Rose Smith-Hayes

    July 9, 2024at8:52 pm

    Will the Rays still be allowed to purchase any part of the property?????I do Not want the property to be sold. I wish for the City to maintain ownership of the land.

  5. Avatar


    July 9, 2024at7:39 pm

    Perhaps all Pinellas County residents should have discounted tickets to home games. If our taxes contribute to the success of this endeavor.

  6. Avatar

    Jazz Thomas

    July 9, 2024at4:42 pm

    @MarkParker, it’s inappropriate regardless of who suggested it. I do appreciate the correction.

  7. Mark Parker

    Mark Parker

    July 9, 2024at4:21 pm

    Hi Jazz, I incorrectly attribute that request to Councilmember Richie Floyd. It was Councilmember Gina Driscoll’s idea. Also, the Rays were already going to provide 2,000 tickets for city employees, she wanted to make it fair rather than choosing or alternating years.

  8. Avatar

    John Donovan

    July 9, 2024at2:39 pm

    I will accept my free game ticket as a resident taxpayer.

  9. Avatar

    Jazz Thomas

    July 9, 2024at12:27 pm

    “Councilmember Richie Floyd said every city employee DESERVED to watch a game in the new ballpark” — seems like a conflict of interest. Elected officials should be impartial and have to disclose gifts of over $25, police & fire have policies regarding taking gifts or gratuities, and if a private company feels beholden to a group of municipal employees than that power dynamic should be investigated.

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