NATIONAL NEWS

Tampa Bay Rays finalizing new ballpark in St. Petersburg as part of a larger urban project

Sep 19, 2023, 7:42 AM | Updated: 8:32 am

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The playoff-bound Tampa Bay Rays put the finishing touches Tuesday on plans for a new 30,000-seat ballpark in St. Petersburg as part of a huge $6.5 billion development project that includes affordable housing, retail, bars and restaurants and a Black history museum.

The site is on the same 86-acre (34-hectare) tract of downtown land where Tropicana Field now sits. That domed, oddly-tilted ballpark will be demolished once the new one is built, in time for Opening Day 2028, said Brian Auld, co-president of the Rays, in an interview Monday.

The plan, which still has some political hurdles on funding and approvals to clear, would keep the Rays in St. Petersburg for the foreseeable future despite constant talk of the team moving across the bay to Tampa, possibly to Nashville, Tennessee, and even a plan to split home games with Montreal that was shot down by Major League Baseball.

“We’re going to be here for a very long time,” Auld said. “We’re all really thrilled that for the first time since we started this we have a clear path to make sure the Rays stay in Tampa Bay for generations to come.”

The announcement for the new ballpark and surrounding project came Tuesday at an event on the field at Tropicana Field.

“I am so excited that the Rays are here to stay. Finally!” said Janet Long, chair of the Pinellas County Commission, who noted this will be the largest economic development project in county history. “This project is a home run and means so much more to us than sports.”

The Rays have played in St. Petersburg since their inaugural 1998 season. The Trop, as the Rays current home is called, is criticized for being dank, outdated and having roof support beams that are sometimes hit by fly balls. It cost $138 million when it was built in 1990 to draw a major league team to the region.

The new ballpark will cost about $1.3 billion, officials said, with roughly half of that coming from the Rays and half from city and county governments, co-president Matt Silverman said. The structure will have a fixed roof in rainy and hot Florida but it will be low-profile, with doors and windows on the sides that can open to the fresh air during cooler months.

“It will have the smallest capacity in Major League Baseball. Having that roof is necessary, but you want to create intimacy,” Silverman said.

Pinellas County officials say their share of the money will come from a bed tax largely funded by visitors that can only be spent on tourist-related expenses.

The Rays (92-59, second in the American League East) on Sunday qualified for the playoffs for the fifth straight year but have among the lowest attendance figures in baseball, with an average of about 17,778 fans per home game, according to MLB.

The overall project goes beyond baseball. It has been pushed by Ken Welch, St. Petersburg’s first Black mayor, as a way to make amends for the destruction of the Historic Gas Plant neighborhood whose mostly Black residents were forced to move in part because of the Rays’ ballpark.

“I saw a need to build a better path forward by prioritizing the community’s need for affordable and workforce housing – both onsite and offsite,” Welch said in a speech earlier this year.

Hines global development company, which is managing the project, says it will include more than 6,000 new apartments and condominiums, office space, retail space, a hotel, Black history museum, and more. The goal is to break ground in the second half of 2024.

“It’s more than just a baseball team that calls it home,” Silverman said. “The stadium question has hung over this franchise for decades. We’re creating a new neighborhood.”

National News

The setting sun illuminates the clouds over the Rocky Mountains after a third straight day of recor...

Associated Press

Monday is the hottest day recorded on Earth, beating Sunday’s record, European climate agency says

Monday was recorded as the hottest day ever, beating a record set the day before, as countries across the globe from Japan to Bolivia to the United States continue to feel the heat, according to the European climate change service. Provisional satellite data published by Copernicus early on Wednesday showed that Monday broke the previous […]

7 minutes ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump reacts after speaking at a campaign...

Associated Press

Trump expected to turn his full focus on Harris at first rally since Biden’s exit from 2024 race

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Donald Trump is holding his first public campaign rally since President Joe Biden dropped out of a 2024 matchup that both major parties had spent months preparing for, leaving the former president to direct his ire toward his likely new opponent, Vice President Kamala Harris. Trump is expected to turn his […]

3 hours ago

A runner and their pacer run as the sun rises behind them on California Route 190 during the Badwat...

Associated Press

Runners set off on the annual Death Valley ultramarathon billed as the world’s toughest foot race

DEATH VALLEY NATOINAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — During a rainstorm that partially obscured the light of a a nearly full moon, 97 runners pushed off in desolate Death Valley with the launch of a 48-hour annual ultramarathon billed as the world’s toughest foot race — the Badwater 135. After starting late Monday night, the men […]

3 hours ago

FILE - FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks during a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee o...

Associated Press

FBI chief to face questions over Trump assassination attempt as he returns to Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON (AP) — FBI Director Christopher Wray is set to testify Wednesday about the bureau’s investigation into the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump, with lawmakers at a congressional hearing likely to press him for fresh details about the gunman’s motive and background. The hearing before the House Judiciary Committee will represent Wray’s most […]

3 hours ago

President Joe Biden disembarks Air Force One as he arrives Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Tuesday, Ju...

Associated Press

Biden will make a case for his legacy – and for Harris to continue it – in his Oval Office address

WASHINGTON (AP) — Even though President Joe Biden won’t be on the ballot this November, voters still will be weighing his legacy. As Vice President Kamala Harris moves to take his place as the Democratic standard-bearer, Biden’s accomplishments remain very much at risk should Republican Donald Trump prevail. How Biden’s single term — and his […]

3 hours ago

Former U.S. Army medical technician Louis M. Gigliotti tours the Alaska Veterans Museum following h...

Associated Press

An Alaska veteran is finally getting his benefits — 78 years after the 103-year-old was discharged

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A 103-year-old World War II veteran who’s been paying his medical bills out-of-pocket is finally getting his veterans benefits from the U.S. government after 78 years. Louis Gigliotti’s caretaker says the former U.S. Army medical technician has a card from the Veteran Administration but he never realized he could use his […]

3 hours ago

Tampa Bay Rays finalizing new ballpark in St. Petersburg as part of a larger urban project