Rays share details of new stadium

    It was reported Monday that the Rays would be announcing a plan for a proposed new stadium in St. Petersburg Tuesday, and Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times relayed the details of the festivities.

    The stadium itself will cost $1.3 billion but is part of a larger redevelopment of the Historic Gas Plant District site, where Tropicana Field is already located, which will cost $6.5 billion overall. Despite the announcement, the financing hasn’t quite been finalized just yet. The Rays are covering more than half of the $1.3 billion price tag for the stadium, approximately $700M. That leaves $600M to be covered by the city of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County.

    That structure has been agreed to by the Rays, St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch and Pinellas County administrator Barry Burton, but it still needs to be approved by the city council and the county commission. Assuming that comes to pass and everything gets rubber stamped, the Rays will sign a 30-year lease that starts with the 2028 season. The stadium will seat around 30,000 under a fixed roof, with artificial turf on the field and “operable walls to bring the outside in.”

    As for the wider development, Topkin relays that it includes “14,000 parking spaces; 4,800 market rate residential units, plus 600 at affordable/work force prices and 600 for seniors; 1.4 million square feet of office and medical space; 750 hotel rooms; 750,000 square feet of retail space; a concert venue with a capacity of 3,000-4,000; and a new home for the Woodson African American Museum of Florida.” 

    Michael Harrison of Hines, the real estate firm the Rays have partnered with, says that about 20% of the total project will be complete when the stadium opens in 2028.

    Despite the stadium upgrades, there are still concerns around the location. Many have previously cited the fact that the Trop is far away from downtown Tampa and not easily accessible as one of the reasons for the club’s persistently low attendance. This new proposal would see the club stay on essentially the same site, but team president Brian Auld doesn’t seem to share those concerns. 

    “One of the things I’ve said multiple times is we’re in the same location as we were five years ago, but I really do feel like we’re in a different city,” Auld said. “There are so many (new condos and apartment buildings) all across the city, and all across this region, that I do believe it has fundamentally changed this region’s, and this city’s, ability to support our team.” 

    Auld added that Major League Baseball is already on board with the proposal.

    As for the next steps toward making everything official, Topkin relays that the expectation is that the Pinellas County commission will vote soon, perhaps before the end of the year. The city would then follow early in 2024.

    MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has long stated that the league wants to expand from 30 to 32 teams, but the Athletics and Rays need to resolve their respective stadium situations before that can really be considered. The A’s have a plan in place to relocate to Las Vegas, with an ownership vote on that likely to come in November. With the Rays potentially finalizing their financing plan not too long after that, the ingredients could be place for future expansion just a few months from now.

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