A new Tampa Bay Rays stadium and redeveloping the surrounding 86 acres could generate an $11.9 billion total economic output and create nearly 18,000 sustainable annual jobs over 30 years.
Those are just two key findings from an economic impact study commissioned by Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton. Utah-based Victus Advisors submitted its final report Feb. 6, and St. Petersburg City Council members received the results the following day.
However, local officials did not publicly release the analysis until Thursday morning. Burton told the Catalyst that he would formally discuss its findings with county commissioners as part of a funding proposal – “if and when we get to that point.”
“As we entered negotiations with the Rays, we wanted an independent economic impact study so we could show our elected officials what impact the development will have,” Burton said. “I didn’t have an expectation (on results), so it is data to help inform us.”
The report notes that county officials contacted Victus Advisors in October 2022 to analyze a new ballpark’s potential economic and social impacts. The firm’s findings account for ancillary development throughout the former Gas Plant District and anticipate a 30,000-seat stadium with a roof.
The analysis notes a new stadium would likely cost over $1 billion. Victus Advisors estimate the construction process would generate over $252 million in direct spending.
They project the building phase to create over 4,500 jobs, $417 million in wages (a $92,658 average), $665,000 in sales taxes and a $443 million total economic output. The firm believes a new stadium would generate more than $3.5 million in incremental taxes – including over 31,000 nightly stays – in its fifth year of operation.
Victus Advisors have developed economic impact studies for over 100 sporting and event facilities. The firm signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with team officials to obtain confidential preliminary plans and projections for the Tropicana Field redevelopment.
“The confidential information provided by the Rays included a proposed ballpark seating program, attendance and revenue projections … which we have used (and sometimes adjusted based on our knowledge of MLB ballparks projects) to project future economic and fiscal impacts in this report,” states the report.
However, it adds that Victus Advisors could not share most of that information due to the NDA. Using that data, the firm believes economic impacts will increase exponentially over 30 years.
In addition to $11.9 billion in total economic output and 17,782 annual jobs, the analysis projects $6.2 billion in net new direct spending, $10.6 billion in labor income and $185 million in total incremental county tax collections.
A chart – assuming a 3.25% annual inflation rate – shows cumulative direct spending reaching $15.4 billion by the redevelopment’s 30th year. Its collective total economic output soars to $30.35 billion.
Erica Riggins, St. Petersburg’s public information officer, noted that city officials partially funded the analysis, helped coordinate community input and provided relevant information. The city contributed $22,475, about half the study’s $45,000 cost.
“The potential economic impacts of the Historic Gas Plant District are significant and transformative,” she said in a prepared statement. “Economic analysis and all relevant information, including data included in the Victus Advisors study, is considered and has helped to inform the city’s negotiations and our continued work with the Rays-Hines.”
The study states that after conducting interviews with local community, government and business leaders representing 18 stakeholder groups, “the presence of the Rays is generally perceived as an overall positive.”
However, a section of the analysis featuring anonymous comments suggests some division. One community leader said there are “two St. Petersburgs,” and team pride isn’t as apparent in the low-income neighborhoods south of the stadium.
Another “expressed concern that the Rays may not be as connected to the Black community” in the city. Other community leaders said the team “keeps St. Petersburg on the map.”
Several government officials noted the team’s extensive philanthropic efforts often go unrecognized. Another said the Rays attract visitors from other areas, who stay in the city after games.
“As it relates to community support for the Rays, business leaders felt that positive culture of supporting the Rays has grown among residents and businesses as the team has made the playoffs each of the past four seasons,” reads the report. “One business leader also stated that, ‘Everyone loves a winner.’”