St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch announced this morning that he had selected the Rays’ proposed plan for the redevelopment of St. Petersburg’s Gasworks District (link via Colleen Welch of the Tampa Bay Times) . The Rays had partnered with property development company Hines on a proposed project, one of four such proposals submitted to the St. Petersburg mayor’s office in early December.
The selection does not represent a firm commitment between the Rays and the city of St. Petersburg for a new stadium. The organization still needs City Council approval of a term sheet, and Wright says that isn’t expected to be decided until at least the summer. The selection by the mayor’s office of the Rays’ proposal over the other three under consideration, however, represents a step forward in those negotiations.
Rays team president Brian Auld said on Monday the team was ‘fully engaged’ with St Petersburg in negotiations, but warned they were only in the very early stages of the process (link via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times). The Rays may continue to explore other long-term stadium possibilities until a term sheet is agreed. While Welch expressed optimism that the franchise wouldn’t, Auld indicated that the organization is also “continuing dialogue” with the city of Tampa.
The Rays/Hines proposal extends far beyond building a new ballpark. The Rays promoted the plan as a project featuring “more than 5,700 multi-family units, 1.4 million square feet of office space, 300,000 square feet of retail, 700 hotel rooms, 600 retirement residences, a entertainment venue for 2,500 people and various civic uses” as part of a press release last month. The proposed new stadium would be a 30,000 seat site on the site of the current Tropicana Field. Topkin notes that the project comes with an estimated price tag in the $1.2 billion range and would require the Rays, St. Petersburg City Council and Pinellas County to agree on funding – highlighting the challenges which remain to be settled on the finances in the months to come.
Although far from a final point, the mayor’s decision represents progress toward a potential agreement on a new stadium plan that would keep the Rays in St. Petersburg. The franchise’s lease at Tropicana Field lasts through the 2027 campaign, which obviously puts a sense of urgency on any negotiations that would involve a massive construction plan for the organization’s new site (and associated projects). WTSP’s Hannah Dineen chronicles some of the disparate responses among members of the St. Petersburg community regarding Welch’s decision.