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St. Petersburg is at critical juncture with Rays and Trop site | Column
“Hard questions need to be asked and debated before we move forward,” writes City Councilmember Ed Montanari.
A rendering from one of the teams vying to redevelop the Tropicana Field site in St. Petersburg.
A rendering from one of the teams vying to redevelop the Tropicana Field site in St. Petersburg. [ Sugar Hill Community Partners ]
Published Feb. 3

St. Petersburg is at a critical juncture considering recent discussions regarding the potential redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site. This is the most important developable land in our city, and we have to work together to create a plan that will serve us well for generations.

Ed Montanari, 57, faced no opposition in his run for St. Petersburg’s City Council.
Ed Montanari, 57, faced no opposition in his run for St. Petersburg’s City Council.

The size, scope and impact of this project is enormous. The development potential for this 86-acre site is in the range of $2 billion to $3 billion — more than 20-to-30 times the new $93 million Pier. There are many considerations involved with moving forward on this project. The first issue is the future of the Tampa Bay Rays. The city of St. Petersburg has a use agreement with the Rays that protects the city and county investment in the building of Tropicana Field, and it also protects the Rays’ interests. The agreement expires at the end of the 2027 season and has provisions that provide for the sharing of new development on the site, gives the Rays approval rights for new development, and also has a provision that Pinellas County needs to agree to new development.

The Rays are one of the most significant businesses in our city, as reflected by Forbes’ annual estimate of the value of Major League Baseball franchises. The Rays represent a multi-million dollar a year business, including direct and indirect economic impacts. A study completed by a consultant for the Pinellas County Tourist Development Council concluded that the Rays generated an annual economic impact of between $192 and $298 million.

The Rays franchise is a significant asset to our community, given the investments the city, county and the Rays have previously made. However, we now have an even more important opportunity to invest in our community if all three parties can come together to establish a mutual agreement.

There are many questions that need to be addressed. The first priority is to discuss with the Rays their plans concerning their future in St. Petersburg. Issues including new stadium sites, parkland, greenspace, jobs and housing all need to be discussed with our partners at the county and the Rays, and at the community level to get needed public input. It would be helpful if Mayor Rick Kriseman treated the Rays and the City Council more as partners in this discussion than as adversaries.

St. Petersburg has a 25-year relationship with the Rays organization, and we are now facing a critical decision about how the city, the county and the Rays can work together to build a new ballpark for the future along with a new integrated community surrounding the new ballpark. Hard questions need to be asked and debated before we move forward. Our city and community have worked together before to solve difficult problems. Let’s do it again and provide a clear vision and use bold leadership to keep St. Petersburg the best city in America.

Ed Montanari is the chair of the St. Petersburg City Council and has served on the council since 2016. He previously served as committee chairman for the Major League Baseball Task Force for the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.