Barring a curveball thrown by the Tampa Bay Rays and St. Petersburg City Council, Mayor Rick Kriseman is set to whittle down the field of Tropicana Field redevelopment proposals from four to two.
In a memo sent on Friday to Council Chairman Ed Montanari and members of City Council, Kriseman said he expects to make his decision known within seven days, meaning an announcement could come by Friday this week. He also pushed back at City Council’s desire to “hit the pause button” on redevelopment talks until the city and the Rays have reached an agreement that will clarify the team’s future — or lack thereof — in St. Pete. The Rays’ Tropicana Field lease agreement expires in 2027, and the team has expressed enthusiasm for a “Sister City” plan that would see the Rays split their season between the Tampa Bay region and Montreal.
However, citing the need to get a head start on funding and financing talks, Kriseman wrote, “delaying progress on selecting and negotiating with a master developer may hinder the progress of stadium discussions with the Rays.”
In March, Kriseman eliminated three of the seven Trop site redevelopment proposals. Still in the running are bids from Unicorp National Development, Sugar Hill Community Partners/JMA Ventures, Midtown Development and Portman Holdings/Third Lake Partners.
In January, the Rays submitted an unsolicited proposal that Kriseman rejected outright, claiming it would require the city to cede control of too much of the property. But City Council members — particularly Montanari, who’s been critical of the Kriseman Administration’s approach to the process, and Robert Blackmon, who said Kriseman erred in rejecting the Rays’ proposal — have said they remain open-minded about the Sister City concept and would like to hammer out an agreement with the Rays prior to the final selection of a master developer. Blackmon, in an appearance on Adam Smith’s Political Party podcast, even raised the possibility of the Tampa Bay Rowdies playing at a new stadium on the Trop site, potentially freeing up the Al Lang Stadium site for redevelopment.
“They’re willing to make up for that deficit (in St. Petersburg games) by committing to bring the Rowdies to a new Tropicana Field stadium, and they’re willing to bring spring training,” Blackmon said. “But the importance to me of bringing the Rowdies there is the consolidation, so you’ve turned an 86-acre site into a 96-acre site because you get all the 10 acres-plus from the Al Lang site that gets to be redeveloped.”
In his memo, Kriseman acknowledged council members’ concerns about moving ahead amid uncertainty but said negotiations with the Rays and a master developer can take place concurrently.
“While your hesitancy about moving forward with redevelopment until we receive greater certainty related to the Rays has been made clear,” the mayor wrote, “I believe these two paths are not mutually exclusive. I believe we can continue to move forward with selecting and beginning to work on a term sheet and, ultimately, a development agreement with the developer selected, while simultaneously renewing our negotiations with the Rays over a new lease or use agreement, in addition to a financing plan for construction of a new stadium.”