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'Re-imagining' Tropicana Field as a home for affordable housing, and possibly baseball

The four finalists to redevelop the 86-acre Tropicana Field site for when the Tampa Bay Rays' lease expires in 2027 gave their presentations to the public Wednesday night at the Coliseum.

Several hundred people filled the Coliseum in St. Petersburg on Wednesday night to hear how the Tropicana Field site could be transformed into a "destination development."

The "re-imagining" of the Trop site was filled with glitzy photos of happy people milling about gleaming buildings — including a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays.

But all Dorothy Myles wants to see is affordable housing. She works for the Pinellas Opportunity Council, which helps low-income people stay in their homes.

Myles wants to see one of the four finalists chosen based on their commitment to engage with the community.

St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch mingles with the crowd before the presentations
Steve Newborn
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WUSF Public Media
St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch mingles with the crowd before the presentations

"Because I think what we've seen since with COVID, and what has transitioned with the housing market, that there's no such thing as affordable housing at this point," Myles said before the presentations. "So there's been a huge and astronomical change in the cost of living for everyday people."

But Bill Leonardo's main concern is keeping the Tampa Bay Rays in his hometown of St. Petersburg.

Leonardo thinks the problem with the Rays' purported financial problems is that Tropicana Field is just a baseball stadium surrounded by a sea of parking lots.

He believes making the site a "destination" — with shops, restaurants and apartments — would make keeping the team here financially feasible.

"I don't think the Trop is a good enough baseball stadium," Leonardo said. "And I think if you build a stadium that's for baseball and other things, that you would be able to get people in from Tampa, which is the deal."

Residents can go online to offer their input until Jan. 23. St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch is expected announce his choice on Jan. 30.

Here's a list of the proposals:

50 Plus 1 Sports

Renderings show the 50 Plus 1 Sports proposal to redevelop the Historic Gas Plant District in St. Petersburg and Tropicana Field.
50 Plus 1 Sports
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Courtesy
Renderings show the 50 Plus 1 Sports proposal to redevelop the Historic Gas Plant District in St. Petersburg and Tropicana Field.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • It envisions "an intensive, sustainable, vibrant, urban, mixed-use and mixed-income community that creates a unique experience and strong sense of place for all people."
  • It includes an open-air stadium, along with restaurants, an entertainment district and a shopping district.
  • It includes a plan for 52-acre parcels of mixed-use programs, including residential, retail, hotels, offices, cultural and recreational public spaces, and infrastructure upgrades.
  • 50% of the development, technology, design, financing, construction, operational and other professionals involved in the project be made up of minorities, women, veterans and other disadvantaged groups preferably from the St. Petersburg area.
  • The project will take on a Florida nautical theme, including a canopy above retail and museum buildings that will replicate a ray's wings.
  • A colonnade around the stadium will mimic older traditional baseball stadiums.
  • A street grid will be created that connects the Historic Gas Plant District to adjoining neighborhoods.

50 Plus 1 Sport: Read the proposal and see the renderings

Hines & Tampa Bay Rays

Renderings show the Hines and Tampa Bay Rays proposal to redevelop the Historic Gas Plant District in St. Petersburg and Tropicana Field.
Hines and Tampa Bay Rays
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Courtesy
Renderings show the Hines and Tampa Bay Rays to redevelop the Historic Gas Plant District in St. Petersburg and Tropicana Field.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • It would include more than 5,700 multifamily units — including 23% dedicated to affordable housing — along with senior living residences, retail space, hotels, and an entertainment venue.
  • It aims to create a "connected, inclusive, and highly activated gathering destination for St. Petersburg" and highlight the district's history through an African American Cultural Heritage park system and outdoor event space.
  • Public art and community events will celebrate the area's rich history.
  • It would build a "a state of the art, community-centric, engaging ballpark" that would be "a magnet for economic development in St. Petersburg and a premier center for sports, science, health, and innovation." Renderings indicate it would be a domed stadium.

Hines & Tampa Bay Rays: Read the proposal and see the renderings

Restoration Associates

Restoration Associates.jpg

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • An intermodal center that will encourage more auto-free walkable areas.
  • A retractable dome stadium at a cost of $1.5 billion, with improvements made to Tropicana Field "on a needed basis" — including opening the façade to allow for more natural light — in order to extend the Rays' lease.
  • Creation of a Memorial Gas Plant District Park around Tropicana Field.
  • 1,000 affordable housing, and other fixed-income units.
  • A convention center and two hotel towers.
  • An African-American history museum and Gas Plant memorial park.
  • A high-tech research and development park.

Restoration Associates: Read the proposal and see the renderings

Sugar Hill Community Partners

sugar hill.jpg

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • If selected, Sugar Hill will "initiate project planning meetings with the Rays and the stadium design and development team immediately following selection." It envisions a dual-use stadium for the Rays and Tampa Bay Rowdies, "thus freeing up Al Lang Stadium to be repurposed or otherwise redeveloped for public use."
  • Plans include a new African-American museum to celebrate the area's heritage.
  • It plans tree canopies that will create an "easy and comfortable" pedestrian experience.
  • A Trailhead would "celebrate St. Pete’s biking culture" and will be "a place for gathering, staging, and refreshing."
  • It would include a "new, 21st century workspace" that will contain residential, retail, and hospitality spaces along with parks and public spaces.

Sugar Hill Community Partner: Read the proposal and see the renderings

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.