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Rays discussion ‘going really well,’ Welch says

Veronica Brezina

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The Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Photo: City of St. Petersburg.

Since inviting the Tampa Bay Rays to sit at the table and talk about their future in the city, St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch said the conversations have progressed. 

“The discussion with the Rays is going really well. First, we’ve asked them to come back to the table with [putting] St. Pete, Pinellas back in the game, and they’ve done that,” Welch said during the Wednesday meeting of the Pinellas County Tourist Development Council. 

Several months ago, Welch announced he and the city started talking with the team again, which was shortly after Major League Baseball’s Executive Council decided to end the team’s ongoing efforts to build new, open-air stadiums in both Tampa Bay and Montreal for a split-season concept. 

“I think we’ve got a lot of potential, but a lot of challenges as well. We are talking about a $1 billion-plus stadium, so there are limits to how much we can invest, but if everything works out well and we can come to an agreement, I see that being several years out. 

“The ask is still there to reserve a commitment from the county and TDC to help fund that stadium, but it’s at least two to three years out before we need that,” Welch said.  

Commissioner Charlie Justice recalled how talks of funding a new stadium have been ongoing for years since Pinellas County hiked the collection of bed taxes to 6%; however, there hasn’t been a formal request from the team.  

“Just to be clear, the ask will be coming. There’s no way we can fund a stadium without the TDC support,” Welch said, acknowledging and agreeing with Justice’s statements. 

Justice said in 2016, funding for the Blue Jays, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Ruth Eckerd Hall was fulfilled in two or three years to prepare for a funding request from the Rays.

“Here we are in 2022, looking at the same thing as we look at these other projects … typically, on any of these projects, we aren’t the first $1 million or $100,000 in, we are the last, and that’s what I would anticipate with any stadium project,” he said. 

Although there isn’t an exact ballpark figure for a new stadium, supply chain issues, inflation and increases in property values have driven up the price tag for certain projects. 

Earlier this year, the Tampa Sports Authority retained Chicago-based consultant AECOM to evaluate the potential fiscal impacts of a new stadium in Ybor and the mixed-use developments that would surround it. 

The group estimated that a new open-air stadium would cost $798.9 million, but that figure does not include all the costs associated with the county, city and additional parties, along with today’s changing market. The study also didn’t include what the price tag would be for a new stadium in St. Petersburg. In either case, it is likely to surpass $1 billion. 

The re-emerging discussion on funding a new stadium also comes during a time when Welch is in midst of reviewing plans from prospective master developers vying to redevelop the 86-acre Tropicana Field site

Both potential developers – Midtown Development and Sugar Hill Community Partners – have redevelopment plans incorporating a stadium and plans with the stadium removed as the lease for the stadium will expire in 2027. 

Welch said he will select a master developer by June 30th. 

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Janet Rojhas

    April 22, 2022at5:05 pm

    How will the city pay for even some of the stadium? When we can barely keep our head above water?

  2. Avatar

    Shirley Hayes

    April 22, 2022at9:18 pm

    Let’s move Baseball to Al Lang field. San Francisco has their stadium on the waterfront and it is quite successful. They have no parking lot and until COVID, attendance was great!!!!

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