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Baseball Forever Campaign Launched By St. Petersburg

Baseball Forever St. Pete
An artist's rendering of the proposed Tropicana Field site

This story was updated on April 6 at 12:20 p.m.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman today filled in city council members on the "Baseball Forever" plan to keep the Tampa Bay Rays in town.

The 43-page report gives an overview of the potential for Tropicana Field as a long-term home for the team.
It would convert much of the sprawling parking lot that now surrounds the Trop to include office towers, housing, a "retail entertainment and kid's zone," an on-site hotel and a "research and tech campus."

Kriseman said transportation projects on the drawing board would also make it easier for baseball fans to travel to games.

"Now there's a myth that it's hard to get to the Trop. But I say that's a myth," he said. "Because what this presentation shows is that's really not the case. Getting to the Trop is easy and there are multiple projects that are slated for construction in and around the Tampa Bay area that's going to make it even easier to get here. Including the ferry."

While he believes the Tropicana Field site is the best place for the Rays, Kriseman said he'd do everything he can to keep the team in the Tampa Bay area.

"Should the team decide that that site isn't the best site for them, we will be supportive of recognizing the regional importance of this team of a location in Pinellas County - which obviously would be our second preference," he told council members, "but if they decide to go across the bay, we'll also do everything we can to support the team in that effort and make sure that baseball is successful in the Tampa Bay region."

While Kriseman touted the site's potential, Council member Charlie Gerdes said Rays officials told him flagging attendance is the biggest impediment to keeping the Rays in St. Pete.

"Talking about supporting the Rays and writing a letter that says we support the Rays is a lot different than buying season tickets, buying sponsorship packages and the old adage about walking the walk - not just talking the talk," he said.

The Rays have consistently been in the bottom of Major League Baseball attendance rankings.

The Baseball Forever Campaign is an initiative of the City of St. Petersburg and St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.Here's an excerpt from their proposal:

The proposed Rays stadium location is the centerpiece of the vision that creates an exciting 24/7/365 mixed-use destination district that will be an economic driver for the community and the Rays for decades to come.  The redevelopment features strategic public infrastructure and amenity improvements that will create a sense of place and add value to the developable parcels. 

The development program includes Rays Way (destination entertainment promenade), significant office space with shared use parking structures, a research/entrepreneur/tech and university campus, hotel and conference space, housing, a revitalized Booker Creek, and urban neighborhood scale retail and offices. 

In addition, the envisioned redevelopment is an extension of and integrated with the current downtown renaissance that will engage the City’s vast arts and cultural community and embrace and honor the legacy of the former Gas Plant neighborhood, while enhancing connections to south St. Pete and all surrounding neighborhoods.  
Finally, it is recognized that the vision will guide redevelopment of the site in a way that allows flexibility and adaptation to the specific needs of the Rays, the community and emerging opportunities.  The City is excited about working in partnership with the Rays to make this vision a reality.

It includes letters of support from many of Pinellas County's largest employers, including Home Shopping Network, Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, Nielsen, Raymond James, and Valpak.


Credit Baseball Forever St. Pete
Baseball Forever St. Pete

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.