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Tropicana Field bidder pledges to give back to the community. Can they deliver?

50 Plus 1 Sports is a South Florida-based developer that’s fairly new to the industry. They’re an unlikely choice to develop the Trop site, according to city officials.
A rendering of 50 Plus 1 Sports' plan to redevelop St. Petersburg's Tropicana Field as the Historic Gas Plant District.
A rendering of 50 Plus 1 Sports' plan to redevelop St. Petersburg's Tropicana Field as the Historic Gas Plant District. [ 50 Plus 1 Sports ]
Published Jan. 24|Updated Jan. 24

Coral Gables-based real estate firm 50 Plus 1 Sports was founded on a commitment to have at least 50% participation from minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses on all of its projects.

To some, this may seem like a lofty goal. But the head of the minority-owned company, Monti Valrie, said it’s part of what sets his team apart from the three other bidders vying to redevelop Tropicana Field.

50 Plus 1 Sports has pledged to start a $10 million career training fund, bring 50% affordable housing, fund the project without local tax dollars and share billions in profits with the city of St. Petersburg.

“I don’t care if I make a million dollars in St. Pete, as long as the citizens and the people get what they deserve,” Valrie said, adding, “It’s the right thing to do.”

But city officials have expressed doubts about whether the young company is equipped to deliver on all of its promises.

City staff who evaluated the bid said it lacked important details, including an infrastructure plan. They also noted that the company had not partnered with a dedicated affordable-housing developer.

In his evaluation, city architect Raul Quintana wrote that it was “unclear what the size and capacity of Lead firm is to handle a multi-decade project such as this.”

Here’s everything to know about 50 Plus 1 Sports’ Trop proposal.

Key players

Monti Valrie is the principal and managing partner of 50 Plus 1 Sports. Before launching the company two years ago, he worked as a consultant to the multinational construction and engineering firm AECOM. He would act as the lead developer on the Tropicana Field project.

Tom DeMuth is the president of Fresh Coast Development Partners, a Wisconsin-based company that works on public-private real estate partnerships. He previously served as a managing director for Summit Smith Development in Milwaukee. He got his start practicing real estate law. He would handle debt/equity for the Tropicana Field project.

AECOM will help with the designing and planning of the project. Key team members from that company include Stephen Panzarino — a vice president and regional director of architecture for the east region — and Ryan Bouma — a landscape architect and urban designer.

JLL is a global commercial real estate services company with a local office in Tampa. JLL will serve as a capital partner on the project and will also assist with development services and brokerage.

Kendrick Meek, former U.S. congressional representative for Florida’s 17th District, was also named as an adviser to the team.

Past development experience

The evaluation from city staff noted that 50 Plus 1 lacked experience as a lead developer. Many of the projects referenced in its bid were the work of individual partners, not the company itself.

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A third-party consultant for the city assessed each bidder’s level of experience working on three different types of projects – residential, office/workplace and hospitality/destination. It gave 50 Plus 1 a 1 out of 3 across all categories.

50 Plus 1 Sports has been tapped by the University of New Orleans to develop a $1.45 billion sports and entertainment district, but that project is still in the early stages.

DeMuth and his company, Fresh Coast Development Partners, are currently working on a $500 million mixed-use project in Brookfield, Wisconsin, called “The Corridor.”

Bouma from AECOM has headed several large redevelopment projects, including The Yards East and The Yards West on the Capitol Riverfront in Washington, D.C., and the Richmond City Center and Diamond District in Richmond, Virginia. The company also helped create the St. Petersburg Waterfront Master Plan and the EDGE District Improvement Plan.

Proposal highlights

50 Plus 1 Sports has offered an extensive revenue sharing model that could net the city of St. Petersburg an estimated $8.9 billion over the first 60 years.

The agreement would hinge on a 99-year, $0 ground lease. This would allow the city to retain ownership of the land.

“We’re happy to share with the city because we can still get what we want and they can still get an awful lot more than they would with any other project,” said DeMuth.

Other highlights include:

  • 6,748 residential units, at least 50% of which will be designated as affordable or workforce housing. Total development costs are estimated at more than $2.8 billion.
  • An open-air baseball stadium with a canopy providing shade for spectators. There will also be retail and entertainment space at the street level.
  • A public park around Booker Creek with trails and flexible space for community gatherings.
  • A “cultural site,” such as a performing arts center or museum.

Financing

50 Plus 1 Sports has pledged not to use any city tax dollars to build this project. Instead, Valrie said they will impose a district tax that will generate revenue from the hotels, restaurants, retail and other businesses in the Gas Plant District.

Valrie said his company will put $800 million toward building a new stadium and look to the Rays to finance any remaining costs.

In addition to more traditional funding sources, like construction loans, bond financing, cash equity and revenue from condo sales, DeMuth said they are seeking other creative solutions. He highlighted opportunity zones — a federal program that allows people to invest in designated distressed areas — and the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program — a state-run initiative that provides funding to developers building green projects.

50 Plus 1 Sports will also apply for low-income housing tax credits to fund the affordable housing component. Some of these credits are competitive, so the funding is not guaranteed.