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Rays set to announce deal for new downtown St. Petersburg stadium

The domed, 30,000-seat ballpark, to be built near the Tropicana Field site, would end a quest that dates back 16 years and includes proposals on both sides of Tampa Bay.
 
Rendering of proposed Rays stadium and surrounding redevelopment as envisioned by the team and the Hines real estate group.
Rendering of proposed Rays stadium and surrounding redevelopment as envisioned by the team and the Hines real estate group. [ Courtesy of Gensler architectural firm ]
Published Sept. 18, 2023|Updated Sept. 22, 2023

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays are set to make a major announcement Tuesday regarding completion of a deal to build a new stadium in downtown St. Petersburg.

The stadium would be built near the current Tropicana Field site as part of the redevelopment of the 86-acre Historic Gas Plant District and open for the 2028 season.

Based on preliminary information shared in January, the stadium is expected to have a fixed dome roof and artificial turf field, seat around 30,000 and cost in excess of $1.2 billion, with contributions from the team, St. Petersburg and Pinellas County.

The announcement is being made jointly by the team, city and county starting at 10:30 a.m. at Tropicana Field (Bally Sports Sun will provide live coverage), and it is also expected to include representatives of the global Hines Co., which is partnering with the Rays on the larger redevelopment project.

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg told the Tampa Bay Times on Sept. 8 that talks with the city and county were “moving along at a very nice pace” and he was “highly optimistic” of a deal being reached by the end of the year.

He also said the team expected to “pay for half or more” of the stadium project, and that the Rays were talking to investors to contribute to the $600 million or more cost in exchange for shares in the team.

An artist rendering of the Rays' proposed stadium design for the Tropicana Field site.
An artist rendering of the Rays' proposed stadium design for the Tropicana Field site. [ Courtesy of Gensler ]

The agreement will provide a new home for the team following the 2027 completion of a 30-year lease at Tropicana Field and is expected to lead to increased revenues via higher attendance and more sponsorship deals that team officials say will allow them to improve facilities and increase player payroll.

It will conclude a search that has spanned 16 years and included proposed sites and projects on both sides of Tampa Bay. Though low attendance at Tropicana Field led team ownership to get permission from St. Petersburg in 2016 to explore building a new stadium in Tampa and have continued talks, they never got close to working out a financing package.

There also was a plan for the team to split home games between new open-air stadiums in Montreal and Tampa, but Major League Baseball officials killed it.

The deal should end speculation about the team relocating to Nashville, Las Vegas or other such cities.

As word of the Rays’ plans spread Monday, St. Petersburg/Pinellas officials mostly kept quiet while some Tampa-side officials said the team made a mistake.

Hillsborough County commissioner Ken Hagan said the Rays had received a “viable” offer and by passing they are “willing to forgo significantly additional revenue in Tampa for more upfront money (from Pinellas).”

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor seemed OK with the decision.

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“We’ve said from Day One that the ultimate goal was keeping the Tampa Bay Rays in Tampa Bay, and our community can celebrate that outcome,” she said in a statement. “A Tampa stadium would be ideal, but the team understood they had to contribute more resources up front to make that happen than building in St. Pete.”

In addition to the announcement and ensuing media availability, the Rays invited longtime season members to “a special event” at the same time at Tropicana Field.

Times staff writers C.T. Bowen and Olivia George contributed to this report.

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