St. Pete reacts to Rays announcement: We're moving forward

St. Pete says even if the Rays leave, it will redevelop the Tropicana Field site.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Although nothing is set in stone, it’s still hard for people who’ve built their lives and livelihood around Tropicana Field to officially hear the team say it wants to leave St. Petersburg.

The city is undeniably enjoying a boom. In recent years, towers have risen. Restaurants and museums have opened their doors, bringing an unprecedented combo of cuisine and culture.

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“I think it’s up and coming,” said Emily Ryttse, who likes the city’s vibe.

A huge catalyst for St. Pete’s modern-day mojo was Tropicana Field. The city built it. The Rays came. And since then the momentum has built on itself.

MIke McAuley’s pub is a block away from the Trop. He and other business owners hitching their proverbial wagon to the Rays now feel a bit jilted.

“Day one, that’s exactly why I bought the business,” said McAuley. “And we would hate to see it go, obviously. So, yeah, it’s going to hurt us all.”

The team’s announcement Friday -- that it would prefer to be in Tampa -- doesn’t mean it’ll happen.

But think of it this way.

If your best friend for 28 years told you they’d rather hang out with someone else, even if they came back - would the relationship ever really the same?

“Well, it’s things we have to work through,” said Mark Ferguson, who owns Ferg’s Sports Grill. “But, we’re going to do everything we can to keep them here.”

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, beating the Rays to the punch by 30 minutes, held his own press conference.

Kriseman announced the city is launching phase two of its redevelopment plan for the 86-acre footprint where Trop now sits.

“Whether you stay or go, we are moving forward with that site,” he said.

Possibilities on a site so large are endless. Hotels. A convention center. Medical, commercial and even more residential space.

“There’s a whole lot of developers that are very excited about this project,” said Kriseman, who still questions whether Hillsborough has the money or infrastructure to ultimately land the Rays.

If not, no hard feelings, said Kriseman. St. Pete, he says, stands ready to play ball.

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“You can’t do business if it all becomes personal,” said Kriseman, “I understand this is what they have to do in order to figure out what’s best for them. And if they want to stay here, great, we think we have a great product here for them.”