The Tampa Bay Rays stadium saga showed signs of moving toward a conclusion this week with not just one, but two huge announcements coming from both sides of the bay.
On Tuesday, news broke that the potential stadium proposal in Ybor City is a bust. According to Max Steele (Creative Loafing), the team’s newly proposed blueprint is too tall for the historic city.
Major League Baseball standards require enclosed stadiums to stand approximately 25 stories tall. The proposed Kforce site is within Ybor City’s historic district boundaries, and any proposal of that height would require approval by Tampa’s Barrio Latino Commission. Because of it, the proposed location would not be the best fit for that type of building due to the height restriction.
What’s more, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor was quoted as saying the Rays have, more or less, left the city in the dark as it relates to the next steps.
What we really need from the Rays in very short order is some type of an idea of what they’re looking for in a stadium. Our position is we’ve gone as far as we can without having the specific renderings or details that they’re looking for.— Jane Castor
Without clear communication from the team, Castor conceded there’s not much more the City of Tampa can do on its end.
However, buried within an article in the Tampa Bay Business Journal is a quote that many, like I, feel is the real reason a stadium in Tampa didn’t happen in 2017/18, wasn’t going to happen in the present tense, and likely would not happen in the future — Tampa doesn’t have the money for a stadium, necessary infrastructure, and mass transportation improvements.
We have a lot of significant issues that we have to deal with here in the city of Tampa. We have a housing crisis right now. We’ve got transportation issues that need resolution. It’s very important to determine where the funding from a baseball stadium would come from. I am in full support of the Tampa Bay Rays staying in Tampa Bay, and I would love to have them in the city of Tampa. But, you know, that is a balancing act as well.— Jane Castor
Much to the chagrin of the Move the Rays to Tampa contingent, a generous stadium subsidy package in lieu of, I don’t know, fixing the cities crumbling infrastructure ahead of the predicted dire effects attributed to climate change doesn’t make much sense, nor does pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the pockets of the team when the mass transportation system in Hillsborough County is far from efficient … among other criticisms. In fact, thanks to Noah Pransky’s public records request to the Tampa Sports Authority, we gleaned the understanding that the team was well aware of those mass transit inefficiencies by the start of 2022 (if not before).
Meanwhile, in St. Petersburg, Mayor Ken Welch announced on Wednesday that the city is going to re-start the Tropicana Field redevelopment project, now with Rays’ active engagement.
In the press conference outside of the Trop, Welch said that two previous proposals for the 86-acre downtown location have been 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.— Ken Welch
The previous proposals precluded affordable housing, which Welch wanted to rectify.
“But that has nothing to do with the Rays!” you might be screaming. I’m getting there.
In 2020, former Mayor Rick Kriseman made an attempt at finding a developer for the 86-acre Tropicana Field site. At the time, though, the team was “pursuing” the failed sister-city leverage gambit, and Kriseman refused to engage the Rays in the Request For Proposal (RFP) process for the site.
With a new mayor sworn into office in January, and the Rays back at the negotiating table so to speak — after all, they had been negotiating with the city all along — Welch found it appropriate to bring the team in given that the torch had been passed on to him.
While the RFP process has been re-opened, Welch noted it should only take a few months — due largely to the appropriation of two master plans (one with a stadium and one without) which came out of the Baseball Forever campaign back in 2017 — and committed to having a new proposal selected by the end of the year. And, because of the Rays’ newfound involvement in the process, Mayor Welch believes the city will know whether the team will stay in St. Petersburg by then, too.
The announcement put many in a state of outrage, with a fair number of tweets hitting the Twittersphere like the one above. However, it should be noted that Pinellas/St. Petersburg has two things that Hillsborough/Tampa doesn’t: funding for a project, and future dollars in the form of 50% of the redevelopment money from anything built on the Tropicana Field site.
While a new stadium in St. Petersburg wouldn’t dramatically fix the attendance problems, neither would a stadium across the bay which the team acknowledged back in 2019. Regardless, the team is after subsidies and a development ROI, which are far more important to profits than attendance, which Pransky mentioned across multiple tweets following the presser. Forget not, if attendance was a top priority of Stu Sternberg, the Rays would simply sell tickets for a dollar and draw thousands more per game.