Sep 20, 2023 - News

Tampa Bay Rays announce deal for new St. Petersburg stadium

A rendering of the inside of the Tampa Bay Rays' proposed stadium. Photo: Courtesy of the Tampa Bay Rays/Hines

The Tampa Bay Rays are officially staying in St. Petersburg, for the price of $1.3 billion.

Driving the news: The team announced Tuesday that it reached an agreement with the city and Pinellas County to move forward with building a new stadium as part of the Hines Historic Gas Plant Partnership.

Why it matters: There's now a price tag on the stadium for St. Pete and Pinellas taxpayers to weigh in on before city council members and county commissioners approve the plan — though the panels aren't likely to hold up the process.

  • "We're counting on our partners at the county and for the mayor to deliver those votes," team president Brian Auld said at the announcement. "We're pretty confident we're going to see this thing through."

Catch up quick: St. Petersburg was always planning to keep the Rays by ensuring Gas Plant plans included a stadium and allowing the team to lead the Tropicana Field redevelopment.

Yes, but: Other cities including Tampa, Orlando and Nashville have tried to lure the Rays with their own campaigns and stadium renderings.

By the numbers: The county and city will each contribute about $300 million to the ballpark. The Rays will pay the rest plus any additional costs.

  • The total Gas Plant redevelopment is projected to cost $6.5 billion over 20 years, the largest mixed-use development project in Tampa Bay history.
  • The agreement between the Rays, the city and the county increases the number of planned affordable and workforce housing units to 1,200 while adding on-site affordable units for seniors.
  • At least half of the 1,200 units are supposed to be built on the Historic Gas Plant site.

The intrigue: At 25,000 seats, Tropicana is currently the MLB's smallest stadium. The Rays' new spot will still hold that title, adding only 10,000 additional seats, with the ability to accommodate up to 35,000 for other events.

Timeline: County and city officials haven't yet scheduled votes, but Pinellas officials tentatively have planned for the end of the year and St. Pete's council is aiming for early 2024, according to city and county spokespeople.

  • Construction on the new ballpark is expected to start late next year.
  • The team will keep playing at the Trop until the end of its lease in 2027.
  • Phase 1 of the Gas Plant development and the new ballpark are projected to be ready by Opening Day 2028.

The other side: Just a few miles north of the Trop celebration on Tuesday, Allendale United Methodist Church's headline-making sign read: "Stealing home: $600 million to the Rays for a new stadium? Tell city/county hell no!" The sign read "Field of schemes" with a similar message earlier in the week.

  • Allendale's senior pastor Rev. Andy Oliver told Axios he'll be fighting the councils to try and persuade them not to give so much taxpayer money, pointing to reports from economists who say major league stadiums don't deliver the predicted economic boon.
  • He called plans for affordable housing and community development included in the project "distractions to make it more digestible."

What they're saying: "If the Rays want to stay in the city, they can afford to get a mortgage," Oliver said. "They should continue to do what everyone else has to do to live here."

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