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City vote on Rays stadium, development a 'regulatory' but hopeful step

After years of fighting to get a new stadium built in the city, or elsewhere, a St. Pete City Council vote last week is a positive, though tentative, step forward for the team and its fans.


  • By Louis Llovio
  • | 10:00 a.m. June 15, 2024
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Tampa Bay Rays fans head to Game One of the American League Divisional Series Oct. 7, 2021, against the Boston Red Sox. The Rays won the game 5-0.
Tampa Bay Rays fans head to Game One of the American League Divisional Series Oct. 7, 2021, against the Boston Red Sox. The Rays won the game 5-0.
Photo by Mark Wemple
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The St. Petersburg City Council voted Thursday to take initial, tentative steps toward moving forward with a plan to build a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays and a massive multiuse development to be built around it.

At an afternoon meeting not far from where the team was about to take on the Chicago Cubs, council members voted on a development agreement for the new ballpark and the redevelopment of the Historic Gas Plant District as well as to change the zoning on seven publicly owned lots.

The measures were approved 5-3 with council members Richie Floyd, John Muhammad and Lisset Hanewicz opposing.

These measures themselves, which are intricate pieces of a much larger puzzle, were the first readings and are now scheduled for a final vote to take place July 11. Several other agreements and details needed to make the plan work will be taken up at that meeting as well.

Even then, Pinellas County and Major League Baseball still have a say.

“There is no final determination that you are making this evening,” Derek Kilborn, the manager for the city’s urban planning and historic preservation division, told council members before beginning a presentation.

“I think that's an important distinction to make so that it is understood by both this counsel and anybody who's following along. This is just a necessary regulatory step on a timeline that includes many different moving parts. And this allows the conversation to continue so that you can continue working on the overarching umbrella agreement which is being handled separately.”

Still, for anyone who has been following the saga of the Rays’ struggle to build a new stadium to play in — in St. Pete and elsewhere — after its lease expires at Tropicana Field in 2027, the votes provided hope that despite some community opposition, the complicated nature of the development and the money involved, the team will remain in the city for the long run.

What the Rays are proposing is a massive 8 million-square-foot multiuse development that would deliver more than 5,400 residential units; 1,250 workforce and attainable housing units; 1.4 million square feet of office and medical space; 750,000 square feet of retail space; 750 hotel rooms; and 14 acres of parks and open space. This along with the Woodson African American Museum of Florida and an amphitheater.

The cornerstone would be a new $1.3 billion stadium for the Rays that will be built with about $600 million in funds from the city and Pinellas County and at least that much from the team. The team will also be responsible for all cost overruns.

The acreage for the ballpark and two parking garages will be owned by the county which will lease it to the city. The city will then sublease it to the Rays for 30 years, with an option to extend that for 40 years.

The Rays unveiled the plans for the new stadium and development in September, about nine months after Mayor Ken Welch chose the team and its development partner Hines to lead the redevelopment of the 86-acre Tropicana Field site.

The team, at the time of the announcement, said it had come to terms with Welch’s office but that many of the details of the agreement would need to be approved by the council.

 

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Louis Llovio

Louis Llovio is the deputy managing editor at the Business Observer. Before going to work at the Observer, the longtime business writer worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Maryland Daily Record and for the Baltimore Sun Media Group. He lives in Tampa.

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