St. Petersburg City Council meets Thursday to talk Rays deal publicly

The council will discuss the deal for the first time with Mayor Ken Welch and the Rays.
St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch speaks at Tropicana Field on Sept. 19 in St. Petersburg. The Rays announced an agreement for a new ballpark to be built there.
St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch speaks at Tropicana Field on Sept. 19 in St. Petersburg. The Rays announced an agreement for a new ballpark to be built there. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published Oct. 25, 2023

St. Petersburg City Council members get their first official crack at weighing in on a proposal to replace Tropicana Field and redevelop the land around it on Thursday.

City officials have prepared a 113-page presentation complete with filled-out documents that provide the City Council with more details about the ballpark and the surrounding redevelopment known as the Historic Gas Plant District.

To have a ballpark ready by Opening Day 2028, a schedule in the presentation shows that designing the ballpark and infrastructure would have to begin next month, with the city approving agreements in March so construction can start in November 2024.

Here’s what to know so far.

Stadium deal

The 30-year deal puts the Rays in the driver’s seat. The team is responsible for the financing, development, design, construction and furnishing of the new stadium, including cost overruns. Their projected financial contribution totals $700 million for the ballpark, which will cost $1.3 billion.

In exchange, the Rays will keep all revenues, naming rights and sponsorships. But there are perks for the city, including city suites and use of the facility for local emergencies. There will also be a St. Petersburg Rays uniform day, with approval from Major League Baseball.

There’s also a commitment by the team to provide 5,000 tickets annually to families with household incomes less than 80% of area median income. The deal requires 15% of all work hours of construction on the stadium to be performed by apprentices and another 15% of all hours worked completed by disadvantaged people, defined as those with criminal records, veterans, homeless or without a General Education Development certificate or high school diploma, among other circumstances.

The city will finance its $287.5 million contribution to the stadium and a separate sum it will commit to surrounding infrastructure with tax-exempt bonds. The city will then use revenues not from existing property taxes but from sales taxes, land sale proceeds and future increased property values within the Intown Community Redevelopment Area.

Historic Gas Plant District deal

The “target development” looks like this: 4,800 market-rate residences; 600 market-rate senior residences; 750 hotel rooms; 1.4 million square feet of office or medical space; 750,000 square feet of retail space; 100,000 square feet of entertainment space; 50,000 square feet of space for civic use; 90,000 square feet of conference, ballroom and meeting space; and 14 acres of park space.

The “minimum development” calls for 3,800 market-rate residences; 400 hotel keys or two hotel pads; 1 million square feet of commercial and office space; 50,000 square feet of conference, ballroom and meeting space; and 10 acres of open park space.

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There is a goal that 30% of construction work on-site will go to small, minority-owned and women-owned businesses, with a guaranteed minimum of 10%.

The Rays’ initial proposal only guaranteed 859 affordable housing units in total with another $15 million going toward developing 600 off-site residences, though that came with contingencies. The negotiated deal guarantees 1,200 affordable housing units and $15 million in cash for the city’s efforts to create affordable housing.

At least 600 of those units will be on-site. The breakdown is 500 units for families making 120% of the area median income; 100 units for families and individuals making 100% of the area median income; 300 units for families making 80% of the area median income; and 300 units for families making 60% of the area median income. The penalty for not delivering rent-restricted units by certain deadlines is $25,000 per unit.

The entire property was appraised at the beginning of this year. The market value and best use of 76 acres of vacant land, including the ballpark but not any new construction or demolition costs, was $330 million. Factoring out the ballpark land and best use, the value of the remaining 60.9 acres was appraised at $279.4 million, which is about $4.59 million per acre.

The city gave the Rays discounts for 14 acres of open space valued at $64.2 million, 2.3 acres for affordable housing at $10.6 million and $3.2 million for the future home of the Woodson African American Museum of Florida. It also gave the Rays credit for a $50 million commitment toward various community efforts and its $53 million infrastructure contribution, calculating the land’s net value at $98.2 million.

The Rays would purchase the surrounding land for $105.3 million, which would be paid on a parcel-by-parcel basis when construction starts. A land payment of $50 million is due within the first 12 years of the project.

The city’s $130 million commitment for infrastructure, including the demolition of Tropicana Field, will be paid over four phases. The city also is on the hook for paying for and building an off-site wastewater station to be completed by 2027.