ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch is reopening talks about the future of the Tropicana Field site where baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays play their home games.
Mayor Ken Welch said Wednesday that two previous proposals for the 86-acre downtown location are being scrapped, with a new round of plans to be solicited beginning in mid-August.
“Our environment has changed since the original RFP was issued in July of 2020, including a pandemic that changed the way we work and affected the potential need for office space; rising housing prices and rental rates; the need for intentional equity and equitable development as highlighted by the city’s Disparity Study and Structural Racism report; and the need to embrace the Community Benefits model City Council adopted last year,” said Welch.
According to the city’s website, “the decision comes after careful consideration and extensive communication with City staff regarding city needs, current economic trends and changing workforce needs.”
Mayor Welch said he was impressed with the efforts from the two finalists in the current RFP process — Midtown Development and Sugar Hill Community Partners — and their response to the communities needs, but said times have changed since the initial RFP.
“The commitment to jobs and economic opportunity, promises made to the Gas Plant community more than three decades ago, must be honored in impactful ways. Honoring the community’s sacrifices, and bringing equitable development for all of St. Petersburg is our goal.,” Mayor Welch said.
Welch, St. Petersburg’s first Black mayor, has made a priority for developing affordable housing and greater job opportunities along with Rays baseball.
“I am optimistic we will choose that right path, one that will bring jobs, equitable and diverse business opportunities, meet our need for housing, meeting space and innovative economic drivers, and support a state-of-the-art home for the Rays for decades to come,” Mayor Welch said.
Welch said the goal is to choose a new redevelopment plan by year’s end. The Rays’ Tropicana Field lease is up in 2027 and Welch said the new plan will include a stadium at the site.
“While the expiration of the Rays lease on Tropicana Field in 2027 represents a real time constraint, it is crucial that this generational project be done right,” the city wrote. “Emphasis must be placed on meeting the city’s needs, delivering progress for our residents and building a district that will be a world class destination to visit, live and work.”
In a statement, Tampa Bay Rays President Brian Auld said, “We are eager to continue discussions with Mayor Welch, City Council and the Pinellas County Commission to determine whether our future home will be on this site.”
“Midtown Development has been honored to spend the last few years working with our partners in the City of St. Petersburg on the Tropicana Field RFP,” said Alex Vadia, Midtown Development principal. “We have made many friends in the St. Petersburg Community, including Watson Haynes of the Pinellas County Urban League. We are truly grateful for their friendship. We wish Mayor Ken Welch and the residents of the City of St. Petersburg all the best in their future efforts to redevelop Tropicana Field.”
Sugar Hill Community Partners sent this statement in part: “We look forward to continuing that effort as we move to the next phase of the selection process. With respect to the Rays, Sugar Hill Community Partners has deep experience developing stadium and stadium-anchored districts. We accordingly welcome the opportunity to work with Mayor Welch and the Rays to fully assess opportunities for a new ballpark at the Trop and to ensure that the project creates maximum value for St. Petersburg.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.