With the Rays saying its top choices for a new stadium in Hillsborough County are unavailable, St. Petersburg leaders are making a stronger pitch to keep the team in their city, and on the Tropicana Field site.
The City of St. Petersburg and the Baseball Forever campaign, led by Mayor Rick Kriseman and St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce President Chris Steinocher, met with Rays ownership in a private meeting at Tropicana Field on Wednesday.
The proposal was posted online by Baseball Forever.
He wants the city to partner with the Rays to redevelop the current site to include shopping, office buildings, a hotel and conference center and places to live.
After his meeting with the Rays, Kriseman shared details of the plan with fans at Ferg’s Sports Bar and Grill.
“I think it was incredibly productive,” said Kriseman of his meeting with the team. “I think we left feeling very positive about the pitch we made.”
The mayor says his proposal provides a unique opportunity for the Rays to be part of the redevelopment process on the 86 acres of Tropicana Field property, currently controlled by the St. Petersburg and Pinellas County.
“This is an opportunity to be an partner in redeveloping that site, and not many pro teams ever have that kind of opportunity,” said Kriseman.
While fans from Tampa had mixed reactions to the plan, those from St. Petersburg, Bradenton and Sarasota were much more supportive.
Edwin and Vivian Herrington are originally from Durham, N.C., home of the Rays AAA Durham Bulls. They just moved to St. Pete to be closer to their favorite team.
“We walk to the games. We love downtown St. Pete,” said Edwin Herrington. “We think it’s the place to be and we would love to see a new stadium right on that sight. I think it could be a destination spot.”
The Herringtons say they see a bright future for St. Pete and hope the Rays do too.
“We hope it happens. It’s part of the reason we’re here. We want to spend the next 20 or 30 years here and we want the Rays to be a part of it.”