Rays new ballpark plans near Tropicana Field



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Tampa Bay Rays stadium update February 2023 Image: Tampa Bay Rays and Gensler

A new ballpark for the Major League Baseball (MLB) team Tampa Bay Rays (US) will be built near the current one under plans unveiled recently as part of a massive redevelopment project that also includes affordable housing, office space and retail in what was once a thriving Black neighborhood.

‘ESPN’ stated that the Mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida, Ken Welch, chose a partnership between the Rays and the Houston-based Hines development company from among four proposals to transform an 86-acre (34-hectare) downtown site where the Rays present home – the Tropicana Field – sits. Welch said the plan should keep the Rays in St. Petersburg for the long term.

The Tampa Bay Rays are an American professional baseball team based in St. Petersburg, Florida (US). The Rays compete in Major League Baseball as a member club of the American League East division. Since its inception, the team’s home venue has been the Tropicana Field.

The 42,735-capacity Tropicana Field is a multipurpose domed stadium located in St. Petersburg, Florida, United States. The stadium has been the home of the Tampa Bay Rays of Major League Baseball (MLB) since the team’s inaugural season in 1998.

Observed Welch while speaking on the steps of the City Hall, “This team is the best partner for this generational endeavor, and now the next phase of work begins to bring this dream to reality for everyone in St. Petersburg.”

‘ESPN’ further stated that the Rays have played at the domed Tropicana Field since their inaugural 1998 season but have considered moving elsewhere, such as neighboring Tampa, amid consistently low attendance. There was also a proposal to split their home games between St. Petersburg and Montreal (Canada) that was rejected by the Major League Baseball (MLB).

Rays President Brian Auld, who attended the Mayor’s event, said in a brief interview that it is “a thrill” to see the project take a major step forward. The plan calls for a new domed stadium to be ready for the 2028 season opener. The Rays’ current stadium lease is up in 2027. Renderings indicate the old stadium would be demolished.

Asserted Auld, “This selection validates all the hard work.”

The Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said last year that there is a “sense of urgency” for the Rays to resolve their stadium issue and that MLB wants the team to remain in the Tampa Bay area.

Manfred said then, “We think Tampa is a major league market and we want to find a solution that makes the club economically viable in that market.”

Details remain to be worked out over the next several years, including how to finance the project among the Rays, the City, the Pinellas County in Florida, and other entities. Welch, who is St. Petersburg’s first Black Mayor, emphasized that a key goal is to restore a majority Black neighborhood known as the Gas Plant District that was ousted by the stadium and a highway.

The broader plan includes about 5,700 housing units – a large chunk of them to be deemed affordable – office and retail space, 700-hotel rooms, a 2,500-seat entertainment venue, and a new Woodson African American Museum of Florida.

Overall, Welch said, the idea is to create a destination for people who come to Rays’ games, as well as build a new community – “Folks want to be here. They want to be next to a vibrant downtown. It’s not just for a ballgame but an entire experience.”

Two proposals shepherded by the previous Mayor were scrapped last year by Welch, who sought to focus more on affordable housing and job opportunities at the Gas Plant District. The Mayor’s grandfather ran a woodyard business there before the neighborhood was essentially obliterated by the Tropicana Field.

Concluded Welch, “I am a child of the Gas Plant. It will no longer be a dream denied.”

New York (US)-based Major League Baseball (MLB) is a professional baseball organization and the oldest major professional sports league in the world. MLB is composed of 30 total teams, divided equally between the National League and the American League, with 29 in the United States and 1 in Canada.

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