It’s back to the drawing board – again – for a potential new ballpark for the Tampa Bay Rays and redevelopment of areas of downtown St. Petersburg.
St. Pete Mayor Kenneth Welch announced Wednesday, June 29, he was canceling a requests for proposals (RFP) issued in June 2020 for redeveloping the Tropicana Field site. The neighborhoods the Trop replaced were collectively known as the Gas Plant, and the stadium development displaced many Black families who, due to racist housing practices and economic inequities stemming from institutional racism, had not been able to buy property, lost their neighborhood, churches, and sense of community.
Mayor Welch’s family once lived in the Gas Plant.
There were two developers — Midtown Development and Sugar Hill Community Partners — interested in that RFP, but Welch wants more affordable housing and links to the neighborhood’s Black history.
“I was fully engaged in this process attending meetings and presentations, speaking with the Kriseman administration and prospective development groups in my role as the County Commissioner whose district was based in St. Petersburg. I am impressed with the efforts from the two finalists in the current RFP process Midtown Development and Sugar Hill Community Partners. They have listened to our community and have responded with their vision of the development of these 86 acres in accordance with our community needs in terms of housing, office space, meeting space, green space, and impactful economic development, including inclusive opportunities for local and minority businesses. There has also been robust community engagement in developing a vision for this generational project,” Welch said. “However, our environment has changed in many ways since the initial RFP was issued in July of 2020, and we must ensure the RFP meets our current environment and realities and incorporates the most up-to-date information.”
A new RFP, slated for an August issue, will have a greater focus on affordable and workforce housing and the racial and economic equity impacts of redevelopment.
The Rays lease at Tropicana Field ends in 2027. The team has been exploring moving out of St. Petersburg as well as Pinellas County. The team has had previous bids for a new ballpark in Pinellas County and Ybor City and a bid to play half the baseball season in Montreal. All have been stymied.
Mayor Welch said the new RFP would allow for a potential development bid from the Rays for a new ballpark as well as for other stadium proposals.
The two development firms who put forward bids on the now canceled RFP will also be able to submit proposals. Just before leaving office, former St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman indicated he preferred the Midtown plan.
Welch took office in January.
“I am optimistic we will choose that right path, one that will bring jobs, equitable and diverse business opportunities, meet our need for housing, meeting space and innovative economic drivers, and support a state-of-the-art home for the Rays for decades to come,” Welch said.