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Tropicana Field selected for Duke Energy development program

The 2020 Site Readiness program helps commercial customers understand how to best develop a site.

ST. PETERSBURG — Tropicana Field was selected as one of three Florida sites for Duke Energy Co.'s 2020 Site Readiness Program.

The initiative is aimed at large corporate customers looking to develop a particular area. In this case, the city of St. Petersburg is seeking to transform the 86 acres of land around its downtown stadium.

“The Tropicana Field Redevelopment project is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the future of St. Petersburg,” said Alan DeLisle, city development administrator for St. Petersburg, in a release.

Duke Energy’s program helped the city understand the site’s “physical, workforce and economic strengths” so it could craft a request for proposals to attract a developer for the project.

Related: St. Petersburg begins hunt for developers to reimagine Tropicana Field site

Tropicana Field’s acceptance into the program builds on a years-long history of discussions for redevelopment of the stadium site.

The city is aiming to return that area to its grid system and include office space, a tech park, mixed-income housing, an upper-end hotel and parks. The city’s solicitation for development proposals emphasized that designs should pay homage to its history with the Black community. When the stadium was built in the late 1980s, many Black residents were displaced as their homes, businesses and churches were torn down to make way.

Related: 'I say let them go.' St. Petersburg's black community is indifferent to Rays' fate.

Intertwined with the site’s development is uncertainty over where the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team will play home games in the future. Currently, the team has a lease to play at Tropicana Field until 2027 and has been exploring options for the future.

One of the biggest benefits to joining Duke Energy’s program, spokeswoman Allison Barker said, is that recipients have access to greater expertise and resources than they could potentially afford without it.

“Particularly (for) municipalities, it would be very costly for them to get this type of evaluation on their own,” she said.

Another boon is marketing. Duke Energy will help market the development once plans are set, helping recipients get a wider platform to advertise on. The utility says this can help draw more investments and labor than recipients might be able to attract themselves.

Tropicana field will be the fourth Tampa Bay site selected for the program since 2013. BKV Tech Center in Hernando County, Zephyrhills Airport Industrial Park in Pasco County and Airco Aviation Business Center in Pinellas County were selected in previous years.

Staff writerJosh Solomon contributed to this report.