ST. PETERSBURG — St. Petersburg architect Sean Williams has watched the nearly decade-long saga of hurt feelings, cold shoulders and failed schemes that have defined the relationship between the Tampa Bay Rays and the city.
A few months ago, Williams decided to give both sides something to rally around: a sketch of what those 85 acres at Tropicana Field could look like with a 30,000-seat stadium connected to bike paths, high-end office space, restaurants and stores.
He met with Mayor Rick Kriseman, City Development Administrator Alan DeLisle and St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Chris Steinocher.
They gave him suggestions on how to tweak his proposal.
"I see it as a conversation starter," said Williams, 38, who helped design the Salvador Dalí Museum.
Williams' first draft was a Central Park-like space with luxury condos. Kriseman suggested more of a mixed-use feel to allow for economic development.
So Williams, the principal architect at OT9 Design, brought back another vision, which includes restaurant and retail space along Booker Creek, a corporate or institutional campus, workforce housing and bike trails. The most distinctive feature is the stadium's glass roof that covers natural grass.
Steinocher said it gives City Council members, the Rays and the public a new perspective on keeping baseball in downtown St. Petersburg.
"I think it's chance to take a deep breath, say 'Holy Cow!' and start dreaming again," Steinocher said.
Instead of passé surface lots, the Class A office buildings would include parking decks for workers during the day and Rays fans at night.
Williams' plan isn't likely to ever be built. Even if the city and Rays agree on a deal, any redevelopment of the Trop is years away. Major League Baseball has an exclusive stadium design contract with Populous, the same architectural firm the Atlanta Braves hired in their plan to relocate their spring training to Toytown, the former landfill near Interstate 275.
But his firm — which has designed university buildings, airports and corporate headquarters — wants to branch out, Williams said. He decided to be "entrepreneurial" and approach city and chamber officials to pitch his idea.
Williams didn't share his renderings with the Rays front office. But he did bounce his ideas off a few former Rays: bullpen catcher Scott Cursi and former pitcher Travis Phelps.
"They liked it," Williams said. "They had suggestions, like where to put the bullpens."
Contact Charlie Frago at email@example.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow @CharlieFrago.