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Second bid for St. Petersburg's Tropicana Field is higher

ST. PETERSBURG — A week after one developer offered to pay $50-million for Tropicana Field, a rival on Thursday countered with a bid for $61-million.

Still unclear, however, is whether either offer — or a third the city also is considering — can successfully finance a new $450-million waterfront stadium downtown as the Tampa Bay Rays insist.

The start of a bidding war, if that's what it will become, took root during a City Council work session on the potential Tropicana redevelopment Thursday afternoon.

Williams Quarter unveiled its financial offer near the end of its presentation to council members. The developer originally told the city it was willing to negotiate a price later.

"It was important there be no misunderstandings whatsoever," William Henry, a principal in the company, told council members.

The bid, which is structured in phases like the $50-million offer Hines made last week, potentially sets the bar for another bid.

Daryl South, with bidder Archstone-Madison, said his development team is still evaluating what price it may be willing to pay. The current Archstone-Madison proposal calls for the developers to make yearly lease payments to the city of at least $1-million and, in some cases, at least $2-million.

When asked whether the Archstone-Madison offer will be in the range of the other two bids, South answered: "We're still evaluating that.

"As soon as we know, the city will know," he added. "And I'm sure everybody will know pretty soon after that."

The price the developer pays for the land, however, is just one part of the Rays' financial equation. Even if Archstone-Madison offered $100-million for the property, the Rays would still need an additional $200-million to build a new stadium. The Rays have said they will contribute $150-million.

Team executives are relying on the property and sales taxes created by the redevelopment of the site. In that regard, the Williams Quarter bid is the least attractive, and Archstone-Madison's presents the most opportunities.

Rays senior vice president Michael Kalt said he believes all three proposals are serious and potentially compatible to the Rays' needs.

During the three-hour meeting, council members peppered developers with questions about their respective plans.

Williams Quarter, which proposes a 4,000-unit rental community, said the proposals of Hines and Archstone-Madison rely too heavily on retail options.

"If you want destination retail, we're not your team," Henry said. "There will be no big box retail. There's better places for it."

The charge was quickly countered.

"You don't find these opportunities very often in the U.S. anymore," said Michael Harrison, a senior vice president with Hines, the developer the Rays have worked with. "The demand for retail far exceeds the current supply."

City staffers said Thursday they hope to make a recommendation to Mayor Rick Baker on whether to proceed by April 23.

Ultimately, the City Council would vote May 1 to begin negotiations with one or more of the prospective developers, with the belief that a detailed development agreement could be finalized in the summer, according to the city's time line.

Any redevelopment would be contingent on the outcome of a possible stadium referendum in November, city officials said.

The Rays' lease for Tropicana Field does not expire until 2027.

Second bid for St. Petersburg's Tropicana Field is higher 03/27/08 [Last modified: Friday, March 28, 2008 1:59pm]
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