Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg to see its final spring training game Friday after 94 years

After 94 years together, spring training and the city of St. Petersburg likely part ways Friday when the Tampa Bay Rays play their final spring game at Al Lang Field at Progress Energy Park.

The 1:05 p.m. start against the Cincinnati Reds marks the end of an era that has spanned nine franchises, at least five ballparks and three practice facilities.

"It's sure the end of spring training as we know it," said City Council Chairman Jamie Bennett. "We're going to miss it."

Where are the Rays going?

The Rays will train in Port Charlotte at the Charlotte County Sports Plex. Once the spring home of baseball's Texas Rangers, Charlotte County and the team agreed to a $27.2-million renovation of the facility.

Why are the Rays leaving?

The Rays like the Port Charlotte location because it is close enough (about 90 minutes from Tropicana Field) to allow the team to establish a year-round presence by moving its major league and minor league spring training camps, as well as the team's injury rehabilitation facilities.

But it is far enough that the team feels it will benefit on the business side by expanding its presence in the state with the hope of becoming more of a regional franchise. It is the only major league team that plays spring training and regular season games in the same city.

Renovated facilities didn't hurt, either.

What will happen to Progress Energy Park?

That's perhaps the biggest unknown. The Rays want to turn the spring training site into a new 34,000-seat permanent home for the team. If that doesn't happen, city officials and residents have discussed a mix of ideas, including a park, a park mixed with commercial development, or leaving it as a baseball field.

Could the city get another team to hold its spring training at Progress Energy Park?

Not likely, at least not anytime soon. Most teams already play in new or renovated stadiums or have long-term leases to stay where they are. If a team were interested in moving to St. Petersburg, it probably would not happen unless the city was willing to invest millions of dollars to renovate the site.

What's the financial impact to the city because of the move?

It's hard to say. St. Petersburg technically loses money because of spring training. It pays the Rays about $1-million to maintain Progress Energy Park and the team's practice fields across town. But the city would likely have to spend that money anyway if a team were not here. The city earns about $85,000 a year in parking revenues at Progress Energy Park and also gets a portion of the ticket and naming rights revenues from the stadium.

Did the Rays only move because they wanted to build a new stadium on the Progress Energy Park site?

Team officials say they never seriously discussed building a new permanent home at the stadium until the deal with Charlotte County was completed. That said, one project may have helped push along the other one.

Aaron Sharockman can be reached at or (727) 892-2273.

Fast facts

Progress Energy Park, home of Al Lang Field

Opened: 1947; renovated in 1977

Number of seats: 6,439

Named for: Former mayor who brought spring training to the city

Final game: 1:05 p.m. Friday, vs. Cincinnati Reds

St. Petersburg to see its final spring training game Friday after 94 years 03/23/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 26, 2008 8:52am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 10 sailors missing, 5 hurt in collision of USS John S. McCain

    SEOUL —Ten U.S. Navy sailors are missing and five have been injured after the USS John S. McCain destroyer collided with an oil tanker near Singapore early Monday morning.

    In this Jan. 22, 2017, photo provided by U.S. Navy, the USS John S. McCain patrols in the South China Sea while supporting security efforts in the region. The guided-missile destroyer collided with a merchant ship on Monday, Aug. 21, in waters east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca. Ten sailors were missing, and five were injured, the Navy said. [James Vazquez/U.S. Navy via AP]
  2. Pasco County Fire Rescue fighting a two-alarm fire started by an explosion


    Two houses are on fire and one victim has been critically burned and taken to a trauma center following an explosion at a home at 8652 Velvet Dr, in Port Richey.

  3. Rays see the Blake Snell they've been waiting for in win over Mariners

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was a one-run game Sunday when the Mariners' Robinson Cano singled with one out in the seventh inning, bringing the dangerous Nelson Cruz to the plate.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throwing in the third inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.
  4. Bucs counting on better health creating better pass rush


    TAMPA — Ask Bucs coaches about the improved depth and health of their defensive line, and they'll look around for a piece of wood to knock on.

    Retired All-Pro defensive end  Simeon Rice, right, the last Buc to have double-digit sacks in a season,  works with defensive end Ryan Russell, who last season was promoted from the practice squad for the second half of the year as injuries piled up. He is competing for a backup job this year.
  5. Tampa man turns himself in for Sunday hit and run fatality

    Public Safety

    A Tampa man was arrested early Sunday after he struck and killed a pedestrian, left the scene, and then called 911 to turn himself in.