ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch is rejecting the two final proposals to redevelop the Tropicana Field site, essentially sending the city back to the drawing board.
But, there's one key message this time around: the goal is to keep the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Pete.
“I think St. Pete is the best place for the Rays,” Welch said Wednesday during a news conference.
After considering the current proposals on the table, Welch has decided to launch a new "request for proposal" (RFP) process that solicits a fresh batch of developer plans. The new submissions, in addition to having housing and business development plans, will also be expected to include a vision for a "state-of-the-art" Tampa Bay Rays ballpark.
The mayor's office has instructed staff to plan for the submission window to open in August.
“I think it’s providential that 40 years after a community was uprooted in the successful pursuit of baseball, we now have the opportunity to bring the promises of jobs and equitable development to fruition on what I believe and I think many people believe to be sacred land,” Welch said.
Welch said he has been engaged in the Trop redevelopment process since he was a county commissioner and was "impressed" with the proposals of the two current finalists, Midtown Development and Sugar Hill Community Partners, who will be encouraged to reapply as part of the new process.
Midtown tells 10 Tampa Bay it is not committed to re-engaging in the process. Sugarhill told us it intends to do so.
"Midtown Development has been honored to spend the last few years working with our partners in the City of St. Petersburg on the Tropicana Field RFP," Midtown principal Alex Vadia said in a statement. "We have made many friends in the St. Petersburg Community, including Watson Haynes of the Pinellas County Urban League. We are truly grateful for their friendship.
"We wish Mayor Ken Welch and the residents of the City of St. Petersburg all the best in their future efforts to redevelop Tropicana Field."
This new RFP also gives the city some legal cover when it comes to potential lawsuits from developers who have already invested millions in development plans.
The mayor says the city has changed since original proposals were being sought in July 2020. And those changes must be reflected in the new 2022 proposals.
City leaders say the pandemic has shifted office space needs and created supply chain issues that are impacting capital project costs. Right now, rental and homeownership prices are skyrocketing – something Welch hopes this plan will keep in mind. Welch also wants to ensure there is equity in the redevelopment process.
The city hopes all those considerations will pair with an effort to create "certainty" about the future of the Rays in St. Pete.
"The Welch administration has spent significant time building and rebuilding relationships with key partners, including City Council, Pinellas County, members of the community and the Tampa Bay Rays," the city wrote in a statement. "Significant progress is being made with our partners toward developing the right model for the Historic Gas Plant District redevelopment, focused on inclusive progress and equitable development for our entire city."
The current Rays lease at the Trop expires in 2027. And, Welch's announcement comes soon after Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said it's time to make a decision about the future Tampa Bay Rays stadium.
"I am optimistic we will choose that right path, one that will bring jobs, equitable and diverse business opportunities, meet our need for housing, meeting space and innovative economic drivers, and support a state-of-the-art home for the Rays for decades to come," Welch wrote in a statement.
As far as if the Rays have any interest in returning to the table in Tropicana Field's redevelopment plan, a spokesperson for the organization said Tuesday, "we will not be commenting at this time."
St. Pete leaders say there will be community outreach events before developer proposals begin getting submitted. More events, the city says, will be held during the decision-making process when proposals are later reviewed.
A form to provide input on this process is available by clicking here.
The city says it hopes to have a developer selected by the end of the year.
You can watch the full announcement below or by clicking here: