ST. PETERSBURG – The Rays are closer than ever to securing a long-term home in the Tampa Bay area.
The Rays agreed with the city of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County to build a new $1.3 billion stadium as part of a project to renovate Tropicana Field and an 86-acre area known as Historic Gas Plant District is known. The club, city and district announced this on Tuesday at Tropicana Field.
They still have to go through the public approval process in the coming months, but this is the first time the Rays have reached this point in their long attempt to agree on a new stadium. Therefore, it is currently more likely than ever that the Rays will continue playing where they have been since their first season in 1998: in downtown St. Petersburg.
“I am very excited. This is an important, significant and truly positive development,” said team president Brian Auld. “I also feel the pressure to ensure that we can achieve this vision that was given to us particularly by the mayor of St. Petersburg, but also by the district commissioners. So we have a lot of work ahead of us.”
The current 30-year contract with Tropicana Field expires after the 2027 season. If the contract is approved and everything goes according to plan, construction would begin at the end of 2024 and be completed by the end of 2027. The Rays would continue to play there Opening Day in 2028.
“Ultimately it’s about making sure the team throws its first pitch here in 2028,” said team principal Stuart Sternberg, “and throws its first pitch here in 2053.”
The Rays’ proposal consists of an approximately 30,000-seat stadium (with a capacity of 35,000 for special events) with a fixed roof, artificial turf, movable walls and a pavilion. The Rays would pay more than half the estimated cost of the stadium; The city and county will cover about $600 million and the Rays will cover the rest.
The stadium is just one part of its mixed-use district redevelopment plan, which also includes apartment buildings, offices, retail space, hotel rooms, senior residences and entertainment venues.
“We believe there are several things that will allow us to significantly increase visitor numbers in the future,” Auld said. “The first is that we will have a better ballpark surrounded by a world-class destination. So we hope more people come to enjoy this incredible ballpark and all the wonderful things we will have around it.”
The Rays have been looking for a new home in the Tampa Bay area for about 16 years. They announced plans for a stadium on the Al Lang Stadium site in November 2007, but were unable to come to an agreement with Hillsborough County on a stadium proposal in Ybor City in 2018 and then had their seasonal proposal. Shared with Montreal, rejected by the MLB Executive Council in January 2022.