St. Petersburg mayor: ‘Major announcement’ on Tropicana Field coming Wednesday

Which developer will Mayor Ken Welch pick to redevelop Tropicana Field’s 86 acres?
An aerial view of Tropicana Field and the surrounding area looking east towards downtown, on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 in St. Petersburg.
An aerial view of Tropicana Field and the surrounding area looking east towards downtown, on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 in St. Petersburg. [ DIRK SHADD | Times (2021) ]
Published June 28, 2022

ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Ken Welch gave himself a June 30 deadline to select a developer to redevelop Tropicana Field, one of the largest land deals in the country.

The Welch administration has announced a news conference Wednesday morning, teasing a “major announcement” regarding the Tropicana Field site redevelopment process by the mayor.

The bidding process, which began under former Mayor Rick Kriseman, has come down to two developers: Miami-based Midtown Development and Sugar Hill, a group led by San Francisco developers JMA Ventures.

Related: Midtown vs. Sugar Hill: Who will get the redeveloper bid for Tropicana Field?

With little over a month left in office, Kriseman chose Midtown; Welch made no promises to honor that pick. He asked both developers to answer a list of questions. Since then, Welch and several local pastors have traveled to Sacramento to see Sugar Hill’s work there.

Welch told the Tampa Bay Times last week that his team was working on making the messaging for Wednesday’s decision “very clear about why we are taking steps to be taken and what’s next.”

Welch said there will be “clarity” following his announcement on whether the Tampa Bay Rays will play in St. Petersburg or not. The team’s lease at Tropicana Field is up in 2027. Welch has said those talks continue to go well.

He said the Rays want a roof on their ballpark, which “killed” his dream of a downtown waterfront park, possibly at Al Lang Field or Albert Whitted Airport.

“I would think that you know, the Tropicana Field site is really, if you’re going to have a roof on your stadium, then that’s probably the best place,” Welch said.

City Council chairperson Gina Driscoll told the Times on Monday that she hasn’t heard from the mayor regarding his decision and cannot speak to the developers per the city’s request for proposal guidelines. She said her wish is to have a combination of the two developers.

“And I have a feeling that we will,” she told the Times on Monday. “If you look at how the redevelopment of the pier that came about, the group that was selected to build our new pier had an original concept. But the end result was a combination of a lot of proposals.”

Driscoll said that the City Council still stands by its resolution passed last year to not entertain a development agreement until the future of where the Tampa Bay Rays will play home games is decided. She said the team indicated to her “that they are in a much better place than they were a year ago.”

“The presence of a stadium or lack thereof is going to inform so much of the redevelopment of the entire site,” Driscoll said. “It all has to relate together. We don’t want it to be disjointed.”