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Rays stadium design firm ‘hit a grand slam’

Mark Parker

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Kansas City-based Populous will provided architectural and engineering services for a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark Rendering: Rays/Hines.

The selection of a company to complete architectural and engineering services on a new $1.3 billion Tampa Bay Rays ballpark was decidedly anticlimactic.

An evaluation committee comprised of three Rays representatives and four city officials considered two firms for the first step in a monumental project. However, MEIS Architects withdrew its proposal before today’s announcement.

That left Kansas City-based Populous, the apparent frontrunner at the initial evaluation meeting, as the sole applicant to design Tropicana Field’s replacement. While city architect Raul Quintana noted that the selection was a mere formality, he said the committee should still discuss the firm’s presentation before announcing their scores.

“Populous hit a home run today,” said Rob Galiardi, chief financial officer for the Rays. “From their experience – not just with stadiums but especially Major League ballparks – they’re a leading architect in that field.”

According to its website, Populous has worked on over 3,000 projects totaling more than $60 billion throughout the past 40 years. University of South Florida officials selected the firm to design a long-awaited on-campus football stadium in Tampa.

What the Rays/Hines development team hopes to accomplish in the Historic Gas Plant District has drawn frequent comparisons to The Battery Atlanta. The massive, mixed-use development surrounds Truist Park, home to Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Atlanta Braves.

Populous provided architectural, interior design and wayfinding services for Truist Park. Rob Manfred, MLB commissioner, called the ballpark “beautiful” and believes it is “the future for baseball.”

Populous has designed hundreds of stadiums, including Truist Field, home to the Atlanta Braves. Screengrab.

The evaluation committee now hopes Populous can provide similar results while incorporating concepts unique to St. Petersburg. Galiardi called their selection a win for the Rays and the surrounding community.

George Dowling, senior director of building operations for the Rays, said the firm’s comprehensive proposal encompassed what stakeholders hope to achieve. He said company officials hit all the team and city’s “high points” during their private presentation.

“I think they hit a grand slam, in my eyes,” Dowling added. “A little bit more than a home run.”

He said Populous understood the ballpark – part of a $6.5 billion, 86-acre redevelopment project – needs to provide more than a place to watch baseball. Dowling believes the firm will help create a regional destination for people of all ages.

Several committee members appreciated the firm’s focus on experiential design. Allison Mihalich, sustainability and resiliency officer, said representatives also assuaged any environmental concerns.

Honoring the Historic Gas Plant’s heritage is a long-stated priority for city and Rays officials. Lyle Miller, senior principal for Populous, told the Catalyst that his company has embraced that challenge.

“We see it as a great opportunity for this ballpark to be a unique and very transformative design,” Miller said after the meeting. “We have had a great history working with the Rays and the City of St. Pete, and we’re excited about being selected for a project that can transform St. Pete.”

Dan Meis, founder of MEIS Architects, cited those relationships in a withdrawal letter dated Nov. 7 and addressed to the city’s procurement and supply management office. He believes the Rays are “devoted” to Populous and that city leadership supports that partnership.

“We appreciate that you provided an opportunity for other teams to compete, but it is sometimes the case in our industry that a qualified team is so far out in front it makes it extremely difficult for those other teams to justify the investment to throw their hat in the ring for consideration,” Meis wrote.

 

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Avatar

    JayG

    November 18, 2023at12:10 pm

    For the best attendance to support a team named Tampa, try placing the stadium in Tampa. We deserve a shot at supporting our team.
    Actually, let’s see if we can do another Hardrock Stadium like Miami and place it next to the Casino. North West Corner of I-75 and I-4. You would pull people in from all over Wesley Chapel, Ocala, Lakeland, Plan City, Riverview, Fishhawk, Tampa, and Brandon. Thats how you fill a stadium for the Rays.

  2. Avatar

    Charles Terrell

    November 18, 2023at9:32 am

    Why are you building a new stadium in replace of the Trop? It’s not the Trop that’s the problem. It’s the location. We’ve been down this road already. Attendance is low now so let’s build a billion dollar stadium and that will increase attendance? The Rays have no business sense. Someone is getting greased really good.

  3. Avatar

    Jim H

    November 17, 2023at8:56 am

    Decent design. Wrong location

  4. Avatar

    Dave

    November 17, 2023at6:45 am

    Still on the wrong side of the Bay –

  5. Avatar

    Danny Longworth

    November 16, 2023at7:04 pm

    Have lived here when the present field was completed before we had a team. Wrong place then and now you want it in same spot. So many years the bottom ATTENDANCE in the league. Hope you plan on flying in 20000 more from somewhere because it is still in a dead end location. Good luck . My friends won’t be there.

  6. Avatar

    Richard Costa

    November 16, 2023at3:38 pm

    The most glaring part of this story is there were 2 companies and one chose to withdraw. A company that is already heavily invested in the process never pulls out with this weak of an explanation. Does anyone really believe this team owner, the bidding process, transparency, professionalism, or anything else associated with this process. There is a lot that is being hidden here.

  7. Avatar

    monah

    November 15, 2023at8:44 pm

    I’ll believe it when I see it. Have you seen The Battery? Generic BS. Meanwhile, the only thing Gas Plant related coming out of Populous and the city is gaslighting.

  8. Avatar

    Mancuso Sr

    November 15, 2023at7:43 pm

    Brand new state of the art stadium. In the same location as the present day stadium, Tropicana Field. What happened to all the negativity about where the Trop is now sitting? Wasn’t that one of the many reasons why people wouldn’t go to the home games? The location? And now I believe there will be fewer seats which automatically means higher ticket prices.
    Seems like “The emporer has no clothes” to me. And I do attend Rays games even though it is very expensive for a retired person. It’s only going to cost a lot more and I don’t think the attendance problem will be solved.

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