A first look at St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Rays’ stadium deal

The final outline includes the city and county’s fiscal contribution to the redevelopment.
St. Petersburg city and Rays officials congregate at the conclusion of the city’s Tampa Bay Rays postseason event on Tuesday, Oct 3, 2023, at City Hall in St. Petersburg hours ahead of our hometown team hosting the wildcard playoffs against the Texas Rangers.
St. Petersburg city and Rays officials congregate at the conclusion of the city’s Tampa Bay Rays postseason event on Tuesday, Oct 3, 2023, at City Hall in St. Petersburg hours ahead of our hometown team hosting the wildcard playoffs against the Texas Rangers. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Oct. 3|Updated Oct. 3

St. Petersburg on Tuesday released the final version of an outline that details the public financial commitments for a new $1.3 billion baseball stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Though it is non-binding, it marks the first time details and dollar figures have been put to paper since city and Pinellas County officials along with the Rays held an announcement of a tentative deal Sept. 19.

The outline divvies up the ballpark’s total $600 million public contribution like this: $287.5 million from St. Petersburg and $312.5 million from Pinellas County. Beyond tourist tax dollars, it would be paid off in part by taxes raised off of new development around the stadium.

The document provides new terms not in its existing agreement. In a nod to the team’s long search for a new stadium that included assessments of Tampa and even Montreal, it includes a requirement that Major League Baseball allow team uniforms that include “St. Petersburg” during at least one home game per season. It would also allow Visit St. Pete-Clearwater to promote the Rays and the ballpark redevelopment as a destination beginning with the 2024 MLB Season.

It mentions future project agreements that will need to be approved by the St. Petersburg City Council and the Pinellas County Commission. They include a non-relocation agreement, a use agreement and a development and funding agreement.

The “New Stadium Project” outline does not include any details related to the redevelopment outside of the county-owned stadium, which will take up 17 to 20 acres on the southeast portion of the 86-acre property. The term sheet regarding the redevelopment of the Historic Gas Plant District is still under negotiation.

The framework released Tuesday in response to public records request will guide discussions by both the City Council and County Commission scheduled for Oct. 26 and Oct. 12, respectively. Feedback from those discussions will help create a legally binding development agreement, scheduled to be ready in early 2024, that requires official votes for construction to begin.

According to the 21-page outline, St. Petersburg will contribute $287.5 million from “revenue bonds” issued by the city and tax increment revenues from the Intown Community Redevelopment Area, which includes Tropicana Field. The issuance of city debt through bonds will also have to be approved in a council vote.

Pinellas County will contribute $312.5 million from tourist development tax revenues and money from the community redevelopment area. The Rays will pay the county a $1 million annual license fee for 25 years.

The Rays will be responsible for the cost of “financing, developing, designing, constructing, and furnishing” the ballpark, including cost overruns due to “unforeseen conditions” and any design or construction defects.

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

All parties will need to execute a new use agreement, which is mentioned in the outline. That agreement will start upon “substantial completion” of the ballpark and remain in effect for 30 years. According to the document, the Rays will have the option to extend the term for two additional five-year periods.

The outline describes a fixed-roof ballpark and community space with a capacity for 30,000 people during baseball games and 35,000 for concerts and other events. It says the ballpark “will likely” include “comfortable seating types” with “exceptional sightlines’ throughout three levels; flexible viewing areas, decks and social gathering spaces; family-friendly amenities, including a kids zone, an “aquarium exhibit/experience,” and indoor/outdoor play areas; premium and social clubs; and sustainable and efficient practices and features.

There also will be team offices, clubhouses, meeting space, open spaces, plazas, parks, paths, on-site parking and two event parking garages.

The Rays are responsible for managing, operating and maintaining the ballpark, coordinating and scheduling the use of the stadium for baseball and non-baseball events and advertising those events, setting rates and charges of the stadium facility and retaining concessions and licensing. They also have the exclusive right to sell naming rights to the ballpark and keep that revenue, according to document terms.

The Rays must reimburse the city $400,000 each calendar year for traffic management and security by the St. Petersburg Police Department. That rate will increase 5% annually.

The outline includes a requirement that the Rays play all home games at the ballpark. Certain exceptions are allowed for a limited number of home games at international or other locations, as well as an alternative location due to a hurricane or other unforeseeable reasons.

It calls for the city and county to each have their own exclusive suites and complimentary tickets, as well as a minimum of 5,000 tickets annually for low-income families in Pinellas County with a household income of less than 80% of the area median income. Those tickets will be distributed through the Rays Baseball Foundation or other local not-for-profits after verification of income.

The new ballpark will still be used as a staging area for local disasters. Tropicana Field is routinely used as a staging lot for Duke Energy trucks.

Details about seating capacity range, number of parking spaces in the surface lots and parking garages, conference room space, office space, retail space and open space will be outlined in the development and funding agreement, which is not yet drafted. Those elements or any other future renovations are not permitted without prior written approval of the the city, the document reads.