Local leaders were already eyeing the next steps in an ongoing quest to redevelop Tropicana Field before celebrations surrounding their agreement with the Tampa Bay Rays/Hines development team subsided.
St. Petersburg administrators will present stadium and development term sheets to city council members in October at a Committee of the Whole Meeting. The Community Benefits Advisory Council will offer its recommendations in November.
Public hearings will follow, and the city council will ultimately approve or disapprove the proposals. On the line is a generational $6.5 billion redevelopment project that must also fulfill broken promises to the predominantly Black former Gas Plant District community.
At the Sept. 19 public announcement, Council Chair Brandi Gabbard noted that elected officials still have ample opportunities to discuss and vote on the transformational project. “Just like in the past, not all those will be easy,” she added.
“And there will surely be lively debate, which there often is … but that is how we move forward into progress.”
Rays president Brian Auld told the Catalyst that attorneys must still “figure out how to paper everything we agreed to in spirit.” That includes contingencies on a proposed 30-year lease for a $1.3 billion stadium.
However, he believes team, city and Pinellas County leadership “have a strong understanding” that the project provides an immense mutual benefit. It is now a matter of writing it down in an agreeable way that protects the three stakeholders’ interests, Auld said.
The public-private partners unanimously expect to complete the process by the spring of 2024. Construction could commence that fall.
At a press conference following the public announcement, Mayor Ken Welch credited City Administrator Rob Gerdes and County Administrator Barry Burton for their leadership through the eight-month negotiation process. He compared them to a team’s coaches.
The two governments will combine to contribute about $600 million towards the stadium through county bed taxes and city bond revenues, respectively. “We’ve been communicating throughout, so there shouldn’t be any surprises,” Burton said.
“This has been a true partnership, and we’re happy to bring all those pieces together to present what we have here today.”
Gerdes said the project represented an investment in St. Petersburg. He said the expected return includes thousands of high-wage jobs, at least 1,200 affordable and workforce housing units, tax revenues from an 86-acre mixed-use development and $50 million in pledged community benefits.
“We are funding that through bonding of a number of revenue streams, none of which are property taxes,” Welch stressed. “And we’re doing it without any new taxes or increase in current taxes.”
Burton said the county’s next steps are “a little more straightforward” than his municipal counterparts. He will present term sheets to commissioners in October and said they would likely vote on land-use agreements at the beginning of next year.
Michael Harrison, senior managing director for Hines, said Tropicana Field would remain standing until the new ballpark is ready for baseball. However, he explained that crews must remove and utilize some existing parking lots when construction commences in 2024.
Once complete, the nearly eight million-square-foot “destination district and community gathering place” will include:
- 4,800 market-rate housing units
- 600 onsite affordable and workforce housing units (and another 600 offsite)
- 600 senior living units
- 4 million square feet of office and medical space
- 750,000 square feet of retail space
- 750 hotel rooms
- 100,000 square feet of entertainment space, including a 3,000-4,000-person concert venue
- 100,000 square feet of conference and meeting space
- 50,000 square feet of cultural and community space, including the Woodson African American Museum of Florida
- 14,000 parking spaces
- 14 acres of new greenspace, activation of Booker Creek and Pinellas Trail improvements
While many contractual details remain unannounced, several local leaders expressed confidence that the Rays would have a new home in St. Petersburg in time for Opening Day 2028. “I’m just totally thrilled,” said Councilmember Ed Montanari.
“We’re not done yet,” he added. “We still have three votes that need to take place – the Tourist Development Council, county commission and city council. But I’m confident we’re all going to work together and get this job done.”