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St. Petersburg to re-start Tropicana Field redevelopment project, now with Rays involved

Team’s future in St. Pete to be determined by the end of the year.

St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch has finally made official what has always been the most likely course of action regarding the redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site: he’s going to choose his own developer, and he’s going to do it with the Rays involvement.

Early in 2020, former Mayor Rick Kriseman made an attempt at finding a developer for the Rays 86-acre stadium site, which occupies nearly 25% of the downtown footprint.

It was an appropriate course of action for the City, but one met by several roadblocks, including the question as to whether a new baseball stadium would be included. Without that clarity, Mayor Kriseman was unable to win approval for funding redevelopment from the City Council.

At the time, the Rays were pursuing a “sister-city” concept that would allow the Rays to share their home games with the city of Montreal. Former Mayor Kriseman refused to engage on that plan, and therefore shut the Rays out of the Request For Proposal (RFP) process for the Tropicana Field site.

Since then, MLB killed the Rays sister city plan with Montreal, which sent the Rays back to the negotiating table with the City of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County, which has far deeper pockets than the Tampa side of the bay.

In a press conference this morning Mayor Welch, who is Black, spoke at length about the opportunity facing the city regarding the 86 acre site that was once the home of an historically Black community known as the Gas Plant district.

Calling the Tropicana Field site “sacred land,” Mayor Welch emphasized the need to meet housing, community, and economical needs through a new RFP, while also acknowledging the the “critical” role of the Rays to the “current vision, relationships, and environment” of city politics.

Welch also noted he needs “certainty” from the Rays as to whether they are staying in St. Petersburg in order to win approval and support from the City Council.

Although he is re-opening the RFP, Welch noted the process should only take “a few months” to field new proposals, and committed to having a new proposal selected by the end of 2022. Because of the Rays involvement in the new RFP process, Welch believes the city will know whether the Rays will stay in St. Petersburg by the end of 2022 as well.

Welch claimed during a press conference that he has “the certainty of the Rays participation” and noted the Rays were attending the press conference, a step in the right direction for St. Petersburg city politics.