St. Petersburg extends deadline for Tropicana Field proposals at Rays’ request

Mayor Ken Welch now aims to select a developer in January rather than the end of the year.
Rays President Brian Auld speaks at an event at Tropicana Field in August.
Rays President Brian Auld speaks at an event at Tropicana Field in August. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Published Oct. 27, 2022|Updated Oct. 28, 2022

ST. PETERSBURG — The city quietly extended the deadline to receive proposals to redevelop Tropicana Field after the Tampa Bay Rays asked for more time following Hurricane Ian.

The deadline to submit a proposal for the Historic Gas Plant District request for proposals was moved back two weeks, from Nov. 18 to Dec. 2.

Mayor Ken Welch, who said he would choose a developer by the end of the year when he launched a new request for proposals this summer, will now make a decision in January. He restarted the selection process for proposals to have bidders factor in the economic fallout of the pandemic and the city’s affordable housing crisis.

Related: St. Petersburg seeks new proposals for Tropicana Field redevelopment

City spokesperson Alizza Punzalan-Randle cited the Rays attorneys’ request for an extension due to “damage, disruption and dislocation caused by Hurricane Ian (and the related evacuation orders and state of emergency).”

The Rays, a “potential proposer,” she said, asked for “adequate time for local and regional partners to fully engage with interested stakeholders, community members and potential collaborators.”

Punzalan-Randle said the Rays made the request Oct. 13, and Welch approved it on Oct. 18. That same day, a file called “RFP Addendum #1″ with the revised submittal date was uploaded to the city’s Gas Plant website, though the page itself still says responses are due by mid-November and a decision will be made “by the end of 2022.”

A Q&A document was updated to reflect the extension, and the real estate webpage also has the addendum attachment.

She said that, according to the city’s legal department, the extension is legally permissible and Welch has the discretion to grant any future extension requests.

There was no news release or official announcement communicated to developers, but Punzalan-Randle said all interested parties were encouraged to regularly check the website for updates.

Asked about the mayor’s timeline to select a developer as the Rays’ lease at Tropicana Field ends in 2027, Punzalan-Randle said that timeframe will depend on the number of responses received and the amount of analysis required “in order for Mayor Welch to choose the best proposal for residents of St. Petersburg.”

“The end-of-the-year decision was always posed as a target,” she wrote in an email. “It was a tight window to begin with, but now with the 2 week extension, it will be a January decision.”

A spokesperson for the Rays referred a reporter to the team’s request made to the city. She gave no further comment. The Rays donated $50,000 to Welch’s political action committee for his election — his largest donation.

Sugar Hill Community Partners, a San Francisco development group by JMA Ventures, was named a finalist to redevelop Tropicana Field by former Mayor Rick Kriseman. They are vying for the job again.

“While we are disappointed in the delay given all the hard work those on the Sugar Hill team have been putting in to meet the November deadline, we are committed to the process, however long it takes — this project is too important,” said David Carlock, Sugar Hill Community Partners project lead, in a statement.

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Carlock donated $2,000 toward Welch’s election.

The city has not received any proposals so far. The last day for developers to ask questions is Nov. 28.

The city’s pursuit of redeveloping Tropicana Field’s 86 acres began in the summer of 2020 under Kriseman. He narrowed the field of developers down to two: Sugar Hill and Midtown Development from Miami. Before leaving office, Kriseman selected Midtown as his preferred developer. Midtown has said it is no longer interested in submitting a proposal.

Welch restarted the process this summer with a new name for the request for proposals that honored the historically Black neighborhood, where his family once lived, that was paved over for a multipurpose dome.

Welch’s request for proposals calls for plans to include a baseball stadium. However, it is not clear if the 17.3 acres carved out for a stadium will be included in this request for proposals.