City of St. Pete Chooses Rays/Hines Stadium Plan, Rays Keeping Options Open - Guide to Greater Tampa Bay
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City of St. Pete Chooses Rays/Hines Stadium Plan, Rays Keeping Options Open

City of St. Pete Chooses Rays/Hines Stadium Plan, Rays Keeping Options Open

The Tampa Bay Rays have called St. Petersburg home for 25 seasons. For most of that time, the city has been fighting to keep the team in Pinellas County.

In his first State of the City address on January 30, St. Pete Mayor Ken Welch announced that the city will move forward with the Rays’ proposed stadium and neighborhood development. The plan set forth by the Rays and developer Hines moves the team one step closer to staying home.

“I am fully confident that this decision is the best path forward for our city,” Welch said on the steps of City Hall. “I am confident that [Rays/Hines group] are the best partner for this generational endeavor, and now the next phase of our work to bring this dream to reality begins.”

Mayor Ken Welch Vows Diversity and Inclusion

From the very start of his mayoral campaign, Welch has passionately emphasized his intention to support a plan that would restore the Historic Gas Plant District. He has consistently discussed the need for the redevelopment plan to highlight Black- owned businesses, minority opportunities and affordable housing.

The development would encompass 86 total acres — more than 8 million square feet — 17 acres of which would be dedicated to the Rays’ new 30,000-seat ballpark.

Rays Still “Continuing the Dialog”

“Here we are, at the end of the beginning. We made it to the starting line, but we have a long race ahead of us,” said Brian Auld, one of two team presidents.

However, in a press conference just hours after the mayor’s announcement, Auld demurred to say whether the team would continue to call St. Pete home beyond the end of their lease in 2027.

“We are continuing the dialog,” said Auld.

The dialog refers to plans for a waterfront development in Tampa proposed by entrepreneur Darryl Shaw. Shaw is responsible for much of Ybor City’s

revitalization over the years. He recently bought 25 acres of waterfront property between Ybor and Tampa’s Channel District.

According to plans submitted to the city, he plans to transform the industrial area into a vibrant waterfront neighborhood. The new “Ybor Harbor” would feature shopping, condos and, possibly, a new stadium for the Rays.

Tampa mayor, Jane Castor, released a statement January 30.

“Our main goal is keeping the Rays in Tampa Bay, and Mayor Welch’s announcement brings us an important step closer to that goal,” Castor said. “There is a lot of work still to do, however. Tampa remains a great option for the team, and we’re keeping our door open and pencils sharpened for due diligence on any potential Rays stadium proposal in Tampa.”

Chances Rays leave Tampa Bay?

In the end, it will all come down to which plan can generate the most money for a billion-dollar ballpark. The Rays will likely select the option with the most taxpayer funding to help foot the bill. Tampa looks to have the most potential on that front.

See Also

What does a potential move across the bay mean for the plans selected by the City of St Petersburg?

“It’s a very different project. To the extent that that ever did happen, and we hope that it doesn’t, we would have to reevaluate,” said Hines representative, Michael Harrison. “It’s a different type of project when you don’t have that kind of anchor tenant that the Rays represent to that project and all that spirals off of that in terms of adjacent activities and uses.”

As of now, there is still an outside chance that the Rays will choose a new home. After the mayor’s announcement, it is almost a certainty the Rays stay in the bay.

Regardless of what the team brass decides to do, both St. Pete and Tampa are booming.

“I think the next 10 years is very bright for us,” said St. Pete Economic Development Corporation president, J.P. DuBuque. “With the development coming on the site and around the rest of the city and the county, I think that the Rays identify that as really great opportunities for them to improve their standing and to continue to put a great team on the field.”

By Jordan Ogren.

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