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Rays stadium plans receive first official approvals

Mark Parker



An aerial rendering of the Historic Gas Plant District's redevelopment, anchored by a new Tampa Bay Rays stadium (right). Images provided.

In what is likely a bellwether for final agreement votes, the St. Petersburg City Council passed multiple measures related to the Historic Gas Plant District’s $6.5 billion redevelopment Thursday evening.

A $1.37 billion ballpark for the Tampa Bay Rays would anchor the generational project. Council members voted 5-3 to extend an area funding mechanism, increase zoning allowances and establish new land use agreements.

Councilmembers Richie Floyd, Lisset Hanewicz and John Muhammad opposed each initiative; Councilmembers Gina Driscoll, Brandi Gabbard, Copley Gerdes, Ed Montanari and Chair Deborah Figgs-Sanders provided the generational project’s first “yes” votes.

The meeting constituted a first reading and public hearing for the foundational measures. The council will hold a second reading and public hearing July 11, the tentative date for a final vote on the Gas Plant and stadium redevelopment agreements.

That timeline fueled ardent debate, including among some who supported the initiatives. “I think it’s wild that we would start to vote on any of this before we see the final documents,” said Floyd.

“We are making decisions based on drafts,” echoed Hanewicz. “Needless to say, we will get documents during council break, and some of us have plans and trips that were appropriately planned …”

Administrator Gerdes said he would provide final documents two weeks before the July 11 meeting – during the council’s 22-day break. City officials have a third project workshop July 9.

Gerdes said the administration’s “backup plan” is to move the final votes to July 18. However, the zoning changes require a 30-day public notice, and that second hearing would occur in August.

Muhammad said the continuously evolving timelines confuse residents and impede community engagement. He also expressed the need for a “mental health break.”

“I don’t think I’ve taken a vacation since I’ve been on council,” said Figgs-Sanders. “So, I will be working through my council break and trying to get some rest.”

Council members also voted 5-3 to increase its outside attorney fee allocation from $950,000 to $1.5 million. The approvals came a day after a seven-hour stadium agreement workshop.

Residents could not offer their thoughts at that meeting. They took full advantage of the time allotted for each item Thursday.

“All of these folks speaking out, whether I share their opinion or not, are here because they care about our city,” began Susan McGrath. “If you think cities like Tampa and other cities around the country would not want this deal, you’re sadly mistaken. I think it is a unique opportunity that the mayor who leads this city’s family was actually displaced by the … original stadium.”

McGrath was in the minority of public speakers who supported the redevelopment plan. Most who opposed it denounced the funding and land sale agreements.

However, the votes concerned three specific items. The first was to increase the Intown Redevelopment Area’s (IRA) budget from $232.35 million to $574.85 million to accommodate Gas Plant infrastructure improvements.

A rendering of the project’s site plan.

Officials established the IRA in 1982 to spur revitalization downtown. Council members voted to extend its lifespan through 2042. That allows officials to use the IRA tax increment financing (TIF) revenue to fund the project.

St. Petersburg will finance most of its $287.5 million contribution through a tax-exempt bond issuance, which it will repay through TIF dollars generated by increasing downtown property values. Officials believe that will increase by 7% annually through 2042 – a “conservative estimate” – enabling the city to pay off its project debt by 2055.

“The TIF locks tons of wealth downtown,” Floyd said. “That’s a large subsidy for downtown and all the developments there, that I maybe understood the reasons for in the past, but I definitely don’t understand today.”

Derek Kilborn, urban development manager, explained that the vesting development agreement between the city, Rays and Hines provides regulatory guardrails. It sets floor area ratio, open space, land use and public art requirements.

Kilborn said the project aligns with the city’s comprehensive plan and would not affect public service standards. “In summary, there is sufficient capacity to accommodate the proposed development within the Historic Gas Plant District.”

The zoning amendment affects seven city-owned parcels surrounding Tropicana Field. It would increase the area’s allowable density to align with mixed-use projects downtown and in the adjacent Edge District.

The three measures passed a first reading despite public opposition and a lack of final documents. Montanari said he shared his colleagues’ concerns over the timeline but offered his tentative approval.

The project will alter the city’s future, and Figgs-Sanders said she is also experiencing the stress stemming from a decision of that magnitude. “At the end of the day, we do have the opportunity to move the date if that is the requirement of the process moving forward,” she added.








  1. Avatar

    Alan DeLisle

    June 17, 2024at5:31 am

    Welch negotiates the worst deal ever for a city. The “sold out five” blindly accept the rhetoric and ignore the reality: Montanari, Driscall, Gerdes, Gabbard and Figgs-Sanders never forgotten by the voters, no integrity.

    The recent poll shows a majority of voters oppose the deal. Because the deal is so bad, all St Pete can do now is hope and pray for the best. St Pete, you are now controlled by the Rays, thanks to the “sold out five.”

  2. Peter Kent

    Peter Kent

    June 16, 2024at6:01 pm

    On June 13 Council Members Montanari, Driscall, Figgs-Sanders, Gerdes and Gabbard voted to accept Mayor Welch’s socialism deal for the Rays-Hines billionaires. Will they again vote to commit the city taxpayer to 30 years of socialism on July 11?

  3. Avatar


    June 15, 2024at10:33 pm

    And the city council is going to sell out the citizens again.

  4. Avatar

    Tom Tito

    June 15, 2024at8:31 pm

    Five members voted for a bad contract before it was written, giving a blank check to the team owner. Or really an agreement to transfer $2.2 billion of public money with seeing the terms the team owner will dictate to city staff.

  5. Avatar

    Alan DeLisle

    June 15, 2024at4:07 pm

    It’s so sad to witness the difference between the Mayor’s rhetoric and the actual agreement. His statements about the deal are diametrically opposed to what is actually in the agreement. Some would call it delusional. Three Council members are smart enough to call out this reality. Five have “sold out” their integrity and turned their back on city residents. Democracy always wins. The poll shows that a majority of St Pete taxpayers oppose this deal. Back door deals will be exposed. Courage St Pete!!

  6. Peter Kent

    Peter Kent

    June 14, 2024at8:25 pm

    I worry the mayor and city council just voted to start giving the owners of Rays-Hines over a billion dollars each from the city taxpayers. This deal has the city taxpayer giving the Rays owner free land use worth about $234 million on which the city-county will give him $600 million to build a stadium and which he operates property tax free saving him about $600 million over 30 years, while paying only $25 million over 30 years. Will the city really get $1.4 billion in value from keeping the Rays in the city? The Rays should build elsewhere in Tampa Bay.
    Hines will be controlling a parcel worth probably $700 million today and several billion as they purchase and sell it slowly over 30 years, for $105 million paid over 30-years. They have the taxpayer building $142 million of infrastructure for them plus $70 million in site cleanup and landscaping. Hines should net several billion dollars in profits while taking on few of the normal developers’ risks. The city, as the developer, should earn these billions and use it to build affordable housing, fix storm water flooding, upgrade its water and sewer plants, lower taxes, etc.
    This winning outcome only requires the city council rejecting the Rays-Hines deal on July 11.

  7. Avatar

    Lauren Lopez

    June 14, 2024at6:53 pm

    Lisset, Richie and John…thank you for your bravery and your service. I stand with you.

  8. Avatar

    Lyn Wilkinson

    June 14, 2024at4:18 pm

    Lisset Hanewicz, Richie Floyd, John Muhammad, thank you for asking the hard questions, listening to the residents and calling out the outrageous – the one-sided terms, the lack of complete documents for review before voting, the hasty pace that only serves the Rays and so many more. Three previous Mayors rejected this deal because it was not good for the city….and yet here we are. Thank you for your opposition and your good sense.

  9. Avatar

    Jazz Thomas

    June 14, 2024at10:32 am

    Lisset Hanewicz, Richie Floyd, John Muhammad: listening, logical, hero’s. Thank you.

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