When it comes to affordable housing, public transportation and baseball’s future in the region, the mayors of the Tampa Bay Area's two largest cities are in agreement - for the most part.
Speaking to members of the Tampa Tiger Bay Club at a luncheon in Ybor City Friday, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman laid out plans to address the issues critical to the area’s growth. They also stressed the need for cooperation.
"To me, you can't talk about housing affordability and creating more opportunities if you're not talking about transportation,” said Kriseman.
A report released last week by Castor’s Housing Affordability Advising Team found that as more businesses are moving to Tampa Bay, the rising cost of housing has pushed some long-time residents out. At the luncheon, Castor said the area’s reliance on cars doesn’t help matters.
"If we do transit-oriented development, then you can take that price of a car off the bottom line of a citizen, so it's critically important," said Castor.
The mayors say investing in downtown shuttle systems and expanding the Cross-Bay Ferry would make commuting across the bay easier by cutting down on traffic jams and addressing parking problems in both cities.
Throughout the luncheon, Castor and Kriseman stressed the importance of cooperation – even when it comes to the future of the region’s Major League Baseball team, the Tampa Bay Rays.
The announcement that the Rays – who have played in St. Petersburg for over 20 years - are seeking to split the season between Tampa Bay and Montreal, sparked rumors over whether the team would stay in St. Petersburg or make the move to a new stadium in Ybor City.
The team's Tropicana Field lease with St. Pete extends until 2027. Kriseman said that while the Rays are welcome to explore the idea of a split season, he has no intention of breaking the contract early.
“They absolutely can explore the split whether it’s in – Hillsborough, Tampa or St. Petersburg,” said Kriseman. “They just have to be looking at 2028 for when that split would begin."
READ MORE about the details of a Tampa Bay Rays split season
While Castor did not say whether Tampa is seeking to snag the sports team, she confirmed that should the Rays relocate they would likely move into a smaller, open air stadium rather than the nearly $900 million ballpark initially proposed.
“We need to do everything that we can to keep the Rays here,” said Castor. “We're too big of an area to lose a major league sporting franchise.”
Despite some fuzziness on the details, both mayors agree that keeping the Rays in Tampa Bay is mutually beneficial.
“As long as we continue to work together like we’ve been doing, I think the future is really bright for this region and each of our cities,” said Kreisman.