Castor says Tampa will 'keep the door open' for building a Rays stadium
Following the announcement of a plan by the Tampa Bay Rays and Hines to redevelop the Tropicana Field site, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said "Tampa remains a great option for the team."
Officials in Tampa and Hillsborough County say they will continue to "keep the door open" for building a stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays despite Monday's announcement that a joint proposal by the team and Hines was chosen to redevelop the historic Gas Plant district and site of Tropicana Field.
On Monday, St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch announced the Rays-Hines development team was chosen to re-imagine the 86-acre site, with an emphasis on affordable housing, green space, and preserving the history of the former Black neighborhood — along with a new stadium for the Rays.
TIMELINE: Tropicana Field and the Rays' future in Tampa Bay
"I am confident that they are the best partner for this generational endeavor, and now the next phase of our work to bring this dream to reality begins," Welch said. "We are eager to get to work to make this project work for everyone in our community. "
The announcement follows continued efforts by Tampa officials to develop plans to build a stadium in Ybor City as the Rays' lease with Tropicana Field ends in 2027.
In a statement following the announcement, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said she welcomes St. Petersburg's aim to keep the team in the greater Tampa Bay region while maintaining Tampa could still be an option.
"Our main goal is keeping the Rays in Tampa Bay, and Mayor Welch's announcement brings us an important step closer to that goal," Castor said in the statement. "There is a lot of work still to do, however. Tampa remains a great option for the team, and we're keeping our door open and pencils sharpened for due diligence on any potential Rays stadium proposal in Tampa.
Today is a great day, not just for our team, but for St. Petersburg.— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) January 30, 2023
We look forward to working hand-in-hand with Mayor Welch, the City Council and the County to deliver a project in line with the Mayor’s vision for inclusive equity. pic.twitter.com/qhBCIhkSeD
Rays President Brian Auld, who attended Welch's event, said in a brief interview it is “a thrill” to see the project take a major step forward.
“This selection validates all the hard work," Auld said.
According to the proposal, the Rays and Hines will work with ballpark architect Populous, which lists Truist Park in Atlanta and Petco Park in San Diego as among its previous projects as part of larger mixed-use developments.
Plans call for a domed 30,000-seat stadium to be ready by the 2028 season.
In an interview with 95.3 WDAE, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan — who has spearheaded efforts to build a stadium in Tampa for 13 years — says talks with the Rays and Hillsborough County have "been ongoing," and a plan to build a stadium in Ybor City remains on option.
Hagan said Tampa still remains the best long-term option for the Rays.
"Major League Baseball knows, the Tampa Bay Rays know, certainly we know that for the team to be successful long-term, and to maximize revenue streams, the ballpark needs to be in Tampa," Hagan said during the WDAE interview. "You really can't dispute that."
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said last year that there is a “sense of urgency” for the Rays to resolve their stadium issue and that MLB wants the team to remain in the Tampa Bay area.
“We think Tampa is a major league market and we want to find a solution that makes the club economically viable in that market," Manfred said then.
Details remain to be worked out over the next several years, including how to finance the project among the Rays, the city, Pinellas County and other entities.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.