)
Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. St. Petersburg

Tampa Bay Rays trying to co-opt Tropicana Field redevelopment bid, pastor says

Bishop Manuel Sykes, who has endorsed Sugar Hill developers, is against the Rays submitting their own proposal.
People listen while attending during a press conference held by local Black pastors, announcing their official endorsement of Sugar Hill Community Partners developers as their choice for the redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site, Thursday, May 19, 2022 in St. Petersburg.
People listen while attending during a press conference held by local Black pastors, announcing their official endorsement of Sugar Hill Community Partners developers as their choice for the redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site, Thursday, May 19, 2022 in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]
Published Oct. 6|Updated Oct. 6

ST. PETERSBURG — Bishop Manuel Sykes is rallying fellow pastors against the Tampa Bay Rays submitting their own proposal to redevelop Tropicana Field.

Sykes, a supporter of Sugar Hill Community Partners, once a finalist to redevelop the prime 86 acres, told the Tampa Bay Times that he heard through Sugar Hill that the Rays want to submit their own proposal and sought to bring on that group as consultants.

“A little scuttlebutt about the Rays wanting to do it themselves, which we would be highly against,” Sykes said. “That would be the rent-to-own deal of a century.”

He said that Sugar Hill wanted to co-own the development with the Rays, which the team turned down. Sykes stressed the importance of an inclusive project that honors the former Gas Plant neighborhood, the Black community that was paved over to build the dome and surrounding parking lots.

“They were deceptive. I’m just going to be honest with you,” he said. “(The Rays) were meeting with Sugar Hill. They were disingenuous. They surprised Sugar Hill, saying they only wanted them in an advisory capacity.”

Sykes also accused the Rays of “trying to take over the inside” of the Sugar Hill group.

“They are recruiting,” he said. “I have not heard any specifics. I do know from the ownership of Sugar Hill they’re trying to divide and conquer.”

Rays spokesperson Rafaela Amador declined to comment.

A spokeswoman for Sugar Hill, led by San Francisco developers JMA Ventures, declined to comment when asked if the Rays turned down a partnership with the development group.

“Our team is intact. Its strength, local depth and diversity is one of our greatest assets and we are excited to submit an updated plan that fully reflects our two years of engagement with the St. Pete community,” said Todd Chapman, president of JMA Ventures, in a statement.

Chapman added: “The Mayor has been very clear about his goals for the site and we appreciate his focus on ensuring the Historic Gas Plant district is an equitable and inclusive project.”

On Thursday, Mayor Ken Welch raised a Rays flag outside City Hall to celebrate the team’s upcoming fourth consecutive playoff appearance. He thanked the team for allowing Duke Energy to stage its operations at Tropicana Field before, during and after Hurricane Ian.

The parking lot served as a base for 1,150 utility workers from 28 utility companies from 15 states, plus seven vegetation management companies to trim trees. The team was also collecting donations for Hurricane Ian survivors at Tropicana Field from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday.

“Thank you to Brian Auld and the entire Rays organization for stepping up to the plate when we needed you most in our community,” Welch said.

Welch told the Times he had not heard Sykes’ comments. He didn’t have any comment about the baseball team submitting its own proposal.

“That’s the first I’m hearing of that,” Welch said. “The (request for proposals) was clear about what we’re looking for.”

Spend your days with Hayes

Spend your days with Hayes

Subscribe to our free Stephinitely newsletter

Columnist Stephanie Hayes will share thoughts, feelings and funny business with you every Monday.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

Previous Mayor Rick Kriseman issued the first request for proposals to redevelop Tropicana Field’s 86 acres in the summer of 2020. The following year, he selected two finalists: Sugar Hill and Miami’s Midtown Development.

Kriseman selected Midtown as his preferred developer shortly before leaving office. Mayor Ken Welch made no promises to honor that pick.

Earlier this year, Sykes was among several local pastors who were flown out to Sacramento, California, to see JMA Ventures’ prior work. They returned and endorsed Sugar Hill Community Partners for the job.

Welch scrapped the bids this summer and issued a new request for proposals for a project with a new name: The Historic Gas Plant District, where Welch’s family once lived.

Sugar Hill has said it is interested in reapplying while Midtown thanked the city and bowed out. Proposals are due to the city by Nov. 18.

Advertisement

This site no longer supports your current browser. Please use a modern and up-to-date browser version for the best experience.

Chrome Firefox Safari Edge