Outline plan for new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark, redevelopment

Outline plan for new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark, redevelopment

St. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) – A new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays will be built near the current one under plans unveiled Monday as part of a massive redevelopment project that also includes affordable housing, office space and retail in the which used to be a prosperous one. black neighborhood

Mayor Ken Welch of St. Petersburg, Fla., chose a partnership between the Rays and Houston-based development company Hines among four proposals to transform an 86-acre (34-hectare) downtown site where the Tropicana Field. Welch said the plan should keep the Rays in St. Petersburg long term.

“This team is the best partner for this generational effort, and now begins the next phase of work to make this dream a reality for everyone in St. Petersburg,” Welch said in a speech on the steps of City Hall.

The Rays have played at the domed Tropicana Field since their inaugural season in 1998, but have considered moving elsewhere, such as in neighboring Tampa, amid consistently low attendance. There was also a proposal to split their home games between St. Petersburg and Montreal that was rejected by Major League Baseball.

Rays president Brian Auld, who attended the mayor’s event, said in a brief interview that it’s “exciting” to see the project take a big step forward. The plan calls for a new domed stadium to be ready for the opening of the 2028 season; The Rays’ current stadium lease expires in 2027. Renderings indicate the old stadium would be demolished.

“This selection validates all the hard work,” Auld said.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said last year that there is a “sense of urgency” for the Rays to resolve the stadium issue and that MLB wants the team to remain in the Tampa Bay area.

“We believe Tampa is a major league market and we want to find a solution that makes the club financially viable in that market,” Manfred said at the time.

Details remain to be worked out over the next few years, including how to finance the project between the Rays, the city, Pinellas County and other entities. Welch, who is St. Petersburg’s first black mayor, emphasized that a key goal is to restore a majority-black neighborhood known as the Gas Plant District that was pushed out by the stadium and a highway.

The larger plan includes about 5,700 housing units, much of it considered affordable, office and retail space, 700 hotel rooms, a 2,500-seat entertainment venue and a new Woodson African American Museum of Florida .

Overall, Welch said, the idea is to create a destination for people who come to Rays games, as well as create a new community.

“People want to be here. They want to be next to a vibrant downtown,” Welch said. “It’s not just for a ball game, it’s for a whole experience.”

Two proposals pushed by the previous mayor were scrapped last year by Welch, who sought to focus more on affordable housing and job opportunities in the gas plant district. The mayor’s grandfather had a landscaping business there before the neighborhood was essentially obliterated by Tropicana Field.

“I’m a son of the gas plant,” Welch said. “It will no longer be a denied dream.”

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