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. Florida beats LSU, wins first College World Series title


    OMAHA, Neb. — Florida scored four runs in the eighth inning to pull away from LSU, and the Gators beat their SEC rival 6-1 Tuesday night to complete a two-game sweep in the College World Series finals for their first national title in baseball.

    UF’s Nelson Maldonado, left, and Deacon Liput high-five after a run scores.
  2. One killed, five injured in crash on Park Boulevard N in Pinellas Park


    Westbound lanes on Park Boulevard N have reopened at 62nd Way N in Pinellas Park following a fatal crash late Tuesday night.

  3. St. Petersburg showdown: Kriseman and Baker pull no punches in first forum

    Local Government

    A standing-room-only crowd packed a Midtown church banquet hall Tuesday to witness the first face-off between Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker in what is a watershed mayoral contest in the city's history.

    Former Mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor.
  4. Wildlife officers look for answers in gopher tortoise deaths while reward money piles up


    The blood had already pooled when the bodies were found, bashed and beaten. One was dead. The other was still gasping, but it was too late.

    A gopher tortoise emerges from a bush to feed on vegetation on Thursday in 2016 at the Moccasin Lake Environmental Education Center in Clearwater. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is investigating the deaths of two tortoises that were beaten and their shells broken in Manatee County. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]