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Phillies ramp up Clearwater expansion with plans for shopping, housing

A proposed $250 million “Ballpark Village” would be in addition to a $320 million revamped stadium and training complex.
 
BayCare Ballpark, the spring training home of Philadelphia Phillies, is pictured on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, in Clearwater.
BayCare Ballpark, the spring training home of Philadelphia Phillies, is pictured on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, in Clearwater. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published June 24, 2023|Updated June 24, 2023

In the future, a day at BayCare Ballpark to catch a Philadelphia Phillies or Clearwater Threshers game could entail way more than just baseball.

The Phillies organization is developing a $250 million residential, dining and shopping complex called Ballpark Village on 13 acres just south of the BayCare Ballpark and Carpenter Field Training Complex, according to Mayor Brian Aungst Sr., who was briefed by team leaders Wednesday.

The mixed-use component adds to the team’s ongoing planning for a major revamp of the city-owned stadium facilities near U.S. 19 and Drew Street, its spring training home. The Phillies told city officials last September that plans to make the stadium a state-of-the-art center for player development and visitor experiences hovered around $300 million.

That stadium and training complex estimate has now increased to $320 million, according Aungst.

A company tied to the Phillies bought the 13 acres next to the stadium in November for $22.5 million. In meetings with City Council members in January, team leaders said the stadium project would include a retail component on the new property but did not provide a cost estimate.

Aungst described the updated concept he saw on Wednesday as a $570 million baseball, residential and retail complex that could change how fans and players experience the sport and boost tourism in the county.

Clearwater Mayor Brian Aungst Sr., who was briefed on the Philadelphia Phillies' latest plans for Clearwater, said the team envisions a shopping and residential complex in addition to its sports facilities.
Clearwater Mayor Brian Aungst Sr., who was briefed on the Philadelphia Phillies' latest plans for Clearwater, said the team envisions a shopping and residential complex in addition to its sports facilities. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

“This is the latest and greatest thing in professional sports and would really revitalize that entire corner,” Aungst said. “It’s a high-tech, expansive rebuild that looks really exciting and not just for the avid baseball fan.”

Despite providing more detail about their ongoing project planning on Wednesday, the team did not tell city officials how much money they will be asking the city and Pinellas County to contribute, Aungst said. The mayor said the Phillies expect to submit an application with those details in August for county bed tax dollars, a 6% tax collected on hotel and short-term rental stays.

The city and county funds would go toward costs of the stadium and training complex rebuild, not the mixed-use center next door, Aungst said.

The complex is expected to be one of several projects competing for bed tax funding this year. A request for some of those dollars still is to come from the Tampa Bay Rays to help build a new stadium in St. Petersburg.

Aungst said the purpose of Wednesday’s meeting was to get him up to speed on the Phillies’ proposal after he was appointed mayor in April to fill a year-long vacancy. City Manager Jennifer Poirrier and City Attorney David Margolis also attended. Phillies CEO John Middleton, CFO John Nickolas and director of Florida operations John Timberlake gave the PowerPoint presentation.

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The Phillies did not respond to questions about the proposal sent to Timberlake and office manager Leslie Henley by the Tampa Bay Times.

Aungst and Poirrier said the team did not provide copies of the presentation. The public has received no updates from the Phillies since it unveiled, then rescinded, its former stadium plan 4½ years ago.

In January 2019, Clearwater and the Phillies presented the County Commission with plans for a $79.7 million renovation to the stadium and training complex. Commissioners balked at their request for $40 million from the Pinellas bed tax, and the team regrouped.

Poirrier said the plans for the updated stadium and retail projects were “still conceptual.” She said when the Phillies are ready to discuss the team’s financial request with the city, consultants will handle those negotiations. The City Council is rehiring sports management consulting firm CAA Icon to negotiate on its behalf.

Clearwater paid CAA Icon $264,259 for negotiations with the Phillies between May 2019 and April 2021.

But this proposal is much more expansive than the previous version.

Aungst said part of the stadium and training complex redesign will accommodate high-tech player development to make BayCare Ballpark a year-round facility, rather than just a spring training base. The training facility, which now is like “a high school weight room” will have rehabilitation pools and floor scales that track a player’s weight distribution through an entire swing, the mayor said.

He said the fan experience will change with 2,000 more seats and a large event space added near center field. A two-story pool, a concept similar to what is in the Arizona Diamondbacks stadium, would be constructed in right field for use during games.

“The latest in all this stuff is making it an event while they are playing and while they are not playing,” he said.

At BayCare Ballpark, pictured here on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, the Philadelphia Phillies organization plans an upgrade that would include capacity for an additional 2,000 fans.
At BayCare Ballpark, pictured here on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, the Philadelphia Phillies organization plans an upgrade that would include capacity for an additional 2,000 fans. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

Aungst said the Phillies organization will relocate some of its departments to Clearwater year-round and increase its full-time staff at the facility from 70 to about 200.

The Phillies have held spring training in Clearwater since 1947. Their current stadium facilities were built in 2004. When the Phillies submit their new redevelopment proposal to the City Council, it will be part of a renewal of the team’s contract that expires at the end of 2023.

Council member David Allbritton said he has been eager to get more details on the proposal. Earlier this year, team officials told him their request for public money would be presented “in two weeks.”

“Then every two weeks it was the same thing,” he said.

“I think there’s value in having the Phillies here and not somewhere else, but we’ve got to come up with something everybody feels comfortable with,” Allbritton said. “And until we know the ask, that’s hard to do.”