Redevelopment of Tropicana Field on city agenda listen01/17/08 Seán Kinane
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Today, the St. Petersburg City Council voted 7-1 to send developers a request for proposal to redevelop the Tropicana Field property.
The Tampa Bay Rays, who want a new waterfront stadium built at the current site of Al Lang Field, are keenly interested in redevelopment of the Tropicana site. The Rays say they can only afford to pay about a third of the cost of the new stadium. The team wants hundreds of millions of dollars from the redevelopment of the government-owned land at the Tropicana site to pay the majority of the cost for a new stadium.
But St. Petersburg City Council Chair James Bennett said that just because the city issued a request for proposal doesn’t necessarily mean the Trop will be torn down.
St. Petersburg’s City Development Administrator Rick Mussett told WMNF there are several steps that have to happen before a decision is made whether to redevelop the Tropicana Field site.
Some concern has been raised that a developer for the Trop site has already been selected. The Rays have worked with the developer Hines, to come up with a tentative redevelopment plan for the Trop site. But the city is casting a wider net. Within the last month, the city notified hundreds of developers. Mussett said proposals must be submitted by March 18, and the city of St. Pete will conditionally select the developer it prefers by May 1. This would allow enough time to place the issue before voters on the ballot this November.
Since Tropicana Field location is bound up in contractual agreements between the city of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County, Mussett said those entities must resolve any current agreements before redevelopment can occur.
But some council members were uncomfortable with the rushed process, including District 1 Council Member Herb Polson, who was the only council member to vote against sending developers the request for proposals.
Mayor Rick Baker said the City Council also had the option of delaying the public referendum to a date later than this November. Baker said he has not figured out how he feels about the redevelopment.
John Higgins, senior vice president of administration and general counsel for the Tampa Bay Rays, said his organization wants the referendum on this November’s ballot.
Higgins said the Rays prefer the referendum to be on the November 2008 ballot is because voter turnout should be high in a presidential election year. He cited the 9 percent voter turnout in the recent St. Pete city elections.
There will be at least three public hearings on the possible redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site and construction of a new stadium on the site of Al Lang Field before the end of May, including one on Feb. 21 at 6 p.m.