St. Petersburg receives proposals for Tropicana Field site

The City of St. Petersburg has unveiled proposals from seven development groups for the reimagining of the Tropicana Field site, with local officials and the Tampa Bay Rays still seemingly at odds over the potential inclusion of a new Major League Baseball (MLB) stadium in the plans.

In July, the City launched a request for proposals process for the Tropicana Field site, urging potential applications to be flexible with regards whether the land will ultimately host an MLB stadium.

Tropicana Field is currently the home ballpark of the Rays, but the MLB club’s long-term future at the stadium is uncertain. The RFP for the 86-acre stadium site outlined the city’s guiding principles for the project and how it envisioned its next new neighbourhood. The City asked prospective applicants to enter two proposals, one including a stadium and another without.

The City yesterday (Tuesday) shortlisted seven applications from nine bids that were entered. Full details of the proposals, comprising visions for the site’s residential, commercial and recreational future exceed $3bn (£2.19bn/€2.48bn) for certain projects, and can be viewed in full here.

The shortlisted proposals are from: Midtown Development; Portman Holdings, Third Lake Partners; SROA, Holabird & Root, ARGO; Sugar Hill Community Partners, JMA Ventures; TRS Development Services; Unicorp National Development; and Wendover Housing Partners.

However, the Tampa Bay Times reports the Rays’ involvement in the scheme is at risk over disputes concerning who would control the site’s redevelopment and subsequent revenues, along with the team’s focus on targeting an innovative strategy that would see it split its season between St. Petersburg and Montreal, Canada.

“I want the Rays to remain in St. Petersburg and I’m willing to work with them to make it happen,” Mayor Rick Kriseman told the newspaper. “But I’m not giving the city away.”

The Rays’ current lease deal at Tropicana Field expires in 2027. The current agreement entitles the Rays to 50% of the revenue of any development on that land before 2028, regardless of whether a stadium is included.

Kriseman said the Rays are seeking control of 50 acres east of Booker Creek, with total control of the development rights for that portion of the parcel. The team would still be entitled to 50% of the development rights on the rest of the property. The team would reportedly still seek funding from Pinellas County and other public funding sources to pay for stadium construction.

“Right now, they’re entitled to 50% of the proceeds and that’s with a full-time team in the city,” Kriseman said. “And they’re proposing to take 100% of the proceeds for a large part of that land, and 50% for the rest of it. And that’s for a part-time team. I can’t give them that. I just can’t.”

Rays owner Stu Sternberg claims the mayor’s characterisation of the team’s “demands” is inaccurate. “This doesn’t get done unless the county, the city — which means the mayor, the council, businesspeople — get together and pull together,” Sternberg said. “That’s the idea, that we want to be on the same side of the table, as opposed to negotiating, ‘What do we get, what do you get.’

“There’s no way this stadium gets built without funds coming out of our pocket. And if it’s too much funding, it doesn’t get built. So how do we get to a point where you’re comfortable and I’m comfortable and what’s good for the city and everybody involved to get a stadium done?”

In February 2020, the Rays said a “meaningful step” had been taken towards securing the future of the team in the region, as a deadline was set for an agreement on the novel proposal that would see the franchise split its season with Montreal.

The Rays met with officials from the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County, with the ‘Sister City’ concept on the agenda. In June 2019, MLB gave the green light for the Rays to pursue the option of splitting its season between Florida and Montreal, amid the franchise’s ongoing stadium issues.

The Rays are said to have business partners with preliminary plans to build a stadium with private funds in Montreal, but games cannot be played before the 2028 season with the Canadian group not committing to the stadium plan until it has a firm contract with the Rays.

Image: City of St. Petersburg