St. Petersburg city leaders discuss proposed new Rays Stadium

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Rendering of new baseball stadium with crown and palm trees surrounding it.
A rendering of the new proposed Rays stadium shows the possibilities for the development. Photo provided by City of St. Petersburg Committee of the Whole for WMNF News (2024).

St. Petersburg City Council met for a workshop session Wednesday to discuss plans for the new proposed Tampa Bay Rays Stadium.

New renderings of a state-of-the-art ballpark were shared, and Rays president Brian Auld said the plans for the air-conditioned stadium would “be something special” and raise the fan experience to new heights.

City leaders added they were focused on limiting the city’s risks while ensuring the Rays remain in St. Pete. 

Mayor Ken Welch said the Historic Gas Plant development would be an anchor for the community.

“It is the foundation for an unprecedented opportunity for jobs, housing, shared economic opportunity, and yes, honoring the promises to the Gas Plant community,” he said.

Welch warned against skewing promises made to the community to fit political agendas and said he wanted to get the best deal for the city. 

“The promise was never to sell the land to the highest bidder. Nor was it to replace the economically diverse Historical Gas Plant community with predominantly low-income housing,” he said. “The promise was equitable economic development.”

But it comes at a high cost, $1.3 billion.  

The city and county will contribute nearly $600 million combined. The remainder will be paid for by the Rays Stadium Company, or StadCo. 

St. Pete’s Debt Financing Officer Anne Fritz said steps have been taken in the new agreement to mitigate the city’s risk.  

“Our bounds are fixed, and all cost overruns are the responsibility of StadCo,” she said.

In the proposal, StadCo would take on the majority of operating costs, including insurance coverage. The group would also be wholly responsible for all maintenance and repairs for the new facility.

City council member Brandi Gabbard raised concerns over the design plans and its ability to be used as a public shelter during a catastrophe.

“And if God forbid, the worst happens, we will need to use this facility in some way, shape, or form to get our city back whole. I don’t want us to then have a facility that we have to use that is not adequate, or maybe not even usable, because it wasn’t built to the way that it needs to be built,” she said.

Senior architect Zach Allee said the building plans could sustain category-four hurricane winds and falls within state building codes.

But Gabbard said the language used in the agreement is not good enough for the large investment the city would make.

A final vote is slated for July 11, but all agreements will require approval from the county and Major League Baseball.

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