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Comparing the plans: what about the stadium?

Baltimore Orioles v Tampa Bay Rays
Goodbye, Trop?
Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images

For baseball fans, the key question about the Tropicana Field area redevelopment is not how the square feet of office space will be distributed, or the number of artist studios. Fans want to know about the stadium. Where will it sit, what will it look like, and what will their experience getting to and hanging out around the stadium be?

The first RFP for the Gas Plant site, issued under Mayor Kriseman as the Rays were pursuing their “split city” plan, had requested submissions both with and without a stadium, suggesting the uncertainty about the team’s future in St. Petersburg. This time around, however, Mayor Ken Walsh asked all applicants to include a stadium in their proposal, which would sit on a 17.3-acre parcel.

Now, the stadium development is separate from the RFP for a master development plan for the entire site. Even if one of the other applicants were to be selected to carry out this project, the Rays would still design, build, and finance their own stadium. That impacts the way the stadium is represented in these proposals. While the Rays can create full-blown ideas for integrating the stadium into the overall development, the other applicants can largely just tell us where they would put it and what sorts of activities and connectivity they would create around it.

Nonetheless, we can review how the four proposals address the inclusion of a stadium in their larger plans.

Ballpark, not stadium, is the preferred term in the Rays/Hines proposal. The ballpark is seen as a hub of commercial, cultural and entertainment activities, and because the Rays will manage the facility, they are able to flesh out details about the park’s construction and end uses. So, they note that the ballpark can include community and educational events. They also include discussion of climate justice, describing elements of planning, design and construction that will promote sustainability. They are siting the new stadium just on the other side of Booker Creek from the current stadium, where the large parking lot currently sits:

Rays/Hines overview

They propose an entertainment filled “Gameday Street” abutting the stadium, and also suggest placing a proposed concert hall and new Woodson African American Museum near the ballpark entrance to create a recreation/cultural hub.

The Rays have subsequently revealed more about the ballpark itself. They envision a pavilion-like structure with a fixed roof made out of material that will let in some natural light (probably not enough for natural grass, sorry). The walls, however, can be opened to create a flow between the inside of the stadium and the activated streets around it. The ballpark will seat 30,000.

Sugar Hill has also given some thought to the role of the stadium in the full development. It’s also interesting that they call for a dual use baseball-soccer stadium, which would free up the Al Lang site, and also ensure that the new stadium would have even more days it is in use, which makes it that much more of a magnet. Their proposal says:

In particular, we have a deep understanding of how to successfully play both offense (capturing the benefit of the incremental attendance generated by the ballpark) and defense (ensuring that uses other than ballpark guests enjoy a pleasant experience when a game or other event is occurring). This requires thoughtful planning and operational execution on a wide array of fronts including site access, parking and micro mobility, guest and operational paths of travel, security, cleaning, and maintenance.

Sugar Hill RFP submission

They later note that they will plan for the “cross-utilization” of parking, e.g. parking will serve office workers by day and baseball fans by night. They also acknowledge the challenges of building mixed use developments around a ballpark which is dark so much of the time, and the need to create development that both supports and counterprograms the baseball stadium.

In their plan, the stadium also sits toward the southeastern part of the area.

Sugar Hill Project Overview

They have not attempted to create a real rendering for the stadium, which they would not design, but they do propose an open space area which they are calling Palm Court that would be built alongside the stadium:

Palm Court

Gas Plant District Restoration Associates provide two stadium options. One is to build a retractable roof stadium, at an estimated cost of $1.5 billion. The other is to renovate the current Tropicana Field. This proposal also suggests that if stadium plans fall through, they would use the available land for some of their proposed housing.

If a new stadium were to be built, it would be located to the northeast of the current stadium:

GSD-RA areal with with new stadium.

The 50 plus 1 group sites a new stadium in more or less the same area as the Sugar Hill Partners:

50 plus 1 plan

They envision the stadium as Phase 1 of their redevelopment. Their renderings show an open-air stadium; I’m not sure if that is an actual recommendation or just a place holder, since stadium plans are not fleshed out. The image below also shows their conception of what an area around a stadium might look like:

We are still far from seeing detailed stadium plans, but these proposals give us some idea of how a Rays ballpark would fit into the larger Gas Plant District plans