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St. Petersburg has plenty of questions about the Rays stadium deal

An artist rendering of the new Rays stadium and redeveloped 86-acre Gas Plant site in St. Petersburg proposed by Rays and Hines Co.
Gensler
An artist rendering of the new Rays stadium and redeveloped 86-acre Gas Plant site in St. Petersburg proposed by Rays and Hines Co.

Some council members questioned tying redevelopment to a sports stadium during a Thursday meeting.

St. Petersburg city council members got their first chance Thursday to drill down into the proposed agreement to build a new Rays stadium and redevelop the historic Gas Plant district.

A $1.3 billion stadium and development deal is complicated. And, council members were ready to talk details about everything from the issuance of bonds to green spaces.

Overall, though, council member Lisset Hanewicz wanted assurances that tying it all to the Rays is the right move.

READ MORE: A look back at the Gas Plant district as the Rays announce historic development and partnership

"So where is data that this provides best benefit instead of other development on the land?" asked Hanewicz.

Plans call for a 30,000-seat stadium on the 86-acre development. The stadium itself would include three seating levels, operable walls, and a pavilion design.

"My concern is the public side of things. Because, otherwise, like the first study says, it represents a transfer of wealth from the public to the private, and that's not what I'm here for."
Councilman Richie Floyd

Mayor Ken Welch answered that this deal finally comes through on the promise to improve the economic lives of African Americans displaced when the Trop was built.

In addition to the stadium, plans call for mixed-use housing along with businesses; retail, office and medical space; public parks; senior living residences; and the Woodson African American Museum of Florida.

"So we're turning that asphalt into jobs, into housing, into $50 million of economic benefits that will help to rebuild the Black business community that was dislocated," Welch said.

Still, councilman Richie Floyd questioned whether it's good for city residents to tie the redevelopment to a sports stadium. He says studies on other stadium projects show it's a risk.

"My concern is the public side of things. Because, otherwise, like the first study says, it represents a transfer of wealth from the public to the private, and that's not what I'm here for," said Floyd.

The first public review of the stadium deal lasted five hours.

The Rays said they want to start development of the new stadium next March in order to meet their 2028 opening schedule.

Brian Auld, the team's co-president, said the goal is to obtain government approvals by March so that construction can stay on schedule for opening day of the 2028 season.

“If we miss that opening date, this entire endeavor becomes impossible. We cannot put these dates at risk along the way,” Auld said.

WUSF staff writers Rick Mayer and Nancy Guan, and the Associated Press was used in this report.

I started my journalism career delivering the Toledo Blade newspaper on my bike.
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