ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — The Tampa Bay Rays made a major announcement Tuesday morning about the future of Tropicana Field and the Historic Gas Plant District.
The City of St. Petersburg held a joint news conference with Pinellas County and the Rays to announce a deal for a new ballpark, concluding the years-long search for the Major League Baseball team’s new home. The news conference can be viewed in the live player above.
“Today we take a significant step toward honoring the promises made to the Gas Plant Community some 40 years ago,” said St. Pete Mayor Ken Welch.
Welch said those promises include opportunity, employment, housing and economic development.
In January, Mayor Welch announced Hines & Rays would be the development team leading the project. The new stadium will be built near the current site of Tropicana Field and will include redevelopment of the 86-acre Historic Gas Plant District.
The Rays will pay for half of the $1.3 billion stadium. The city and Pinellas County will contribute about $600 million combined.
“For that $300 million investment, we will get back more than $6 billion of investment, 30,000 construction jobs, 7,000 permanent jobs after that, 1,200 units of affordable and workforce housing, and $50 million of community benefits,” said the Mayor.
The project is slated to be the largest mixed-use project in the history of the Tampa Bay region, according to a release from the Rays. Officials say the project will invest over $6.5 billion in St. Petersburg over the next two decades.
According to the Rays, once fully built, the project is planned to include:
- 4,800 residential units
- 1,200 affordable/workforce residential units (on and off-site)
- 600 senior living units
- 1,400,000 square feet of office, medical and commercial space
- 750,000 square feet of retail
- 750 hotel rooms
- 100,000 square feet of entertainment space, including a concert venue to seat up to 4,000
- 50,000 square feet of civic space, namely a new home for the Carter G. Woodson African American Museum
- 90,000 – 100,000 square feet of conference, ballroom and meeting space
- 14 acres of public open space
- 14,000 parking spaces
As for the new stadium, the Rays announced it will have a capacity of 30,000 for baseball games and 35,000 for other events.
The Rays have played at the Trop since the team formed in 1998. The franchise has offered competitive rosters over the past several years, but has struggled to draw fans out to Tropicana Field, which is widely-regarded as one of the most outdated facilities in the MLB.
Consistently low attendance and inability to find a new stadium also made the Rays a constant source of relocation rumors, as their least at the Trop is expected to end in 2027. The MLB rejected a plan to split seasons between St. Pete and Montreal, Canada.
“Major League Baseball is here to stay,” Rays owner Stu Sternberg said during Tuesday’s news conference. “Right here.”
Last year, St. Pete Mayor Ken Welch said the city’s goal for the development is a plan that preserves history, includes affordable housing, and accommodates a state-of-the-art baseball stadium. On Tuesday, Welch said the new development plan meets all of the city’s goals for the project.
Dozens gathered at a St. Pete church in July to voice their concerns about the new development. They want to see the Historic Gas Plant District, a historically Black community, restored rather than redeveloped into another stadium surrounded by expansive parking lots.
Residents and businesses were forced to relocate to make way for Tropicana Field 40 years ago. They were promised jobs, opportunity and equitable development, which did not come to fruition, residents said.
The commitment from Hines & Rays includes $50 million in “intentional equity initiatives” aimed at bolstering the local economy in south St. Pete and restoring the minority-owned businesses that were displaced. There are also plans to open a museum showcasing African American culture and history.
In Tuesday’s news conference, Welch said the deal “will finally honor that promise” made to residents of the Historic Gas Plant District.
“This is what progress looks like,” Welch said.
Across the bay, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said, “A win for St. Pete is a win for all of Tampa Bay!”
“I’m thrilled to see the Tampa Bay Rays stay in our region – for economic success, for sports history in the making, and for the future generations of Tampanians who will get to enjoy the great game of baseball with our home team,” Castor wrote on Facebook.
Construction on the new development is expected to begin later this year. The Rays will continue playing at the Trop until their lease ends in 2027 and aim to kick off the 2028 season in their new stadium.
Pinellas County and the City of St. Petersburg will begin the public approval process this fall.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.