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St. Petersburg gives a tentative thumbs-up to the Tropicana Field redevelopment plan

This rendering shows a shopping district as part of the Tropicana Field redevelopment.
Hines/Tampa Bay Rays
This rendering shows a shopping district as part of the Tropicana Field redevelopment.

St. Petersburg City Council members voted 5-3 to move forward with the plan to redevelop the Historic Gas Plant District. A final vote is scheduled for July 11.

St. Petersburg City Council members gave their approval Thursday — for now — Thursday night to a plan to transform Tropicana Field into a mixed-use development anchored by a new baseball stadium.

But there is still a lot of opposition.

One thing that's clear is there is likely enough votes to approve the arrangement with the Tampa Bay Rays/Hines Partnership. The proposal to approve a development agreement passed by a 5-3 vote.

But there was pushback on plans to hold a final vote in mid-July.

Voting no were council members Richie Floyd, John Muhammad and Lissette Hanewicz.

Hanewicz said the process is being rushed and doesn't give officials — as well as the public — enough time to digest all the details. Plus, she says the city has to wait for Pinellas County commissioners to vote on funding their portion.

“It is not the right thing to do to any of us, including the attorneys to put these deadlines in time frames that honestly based on the information we have seem really unrealistic,” Hanewicz said.

There was opposition from many residents during a public hearing. Rebecca Falkenberry called the July 11 deadline to pass the deal arbitrary.

“I urge you to wait,” Falkenberry told council members. “This feels like a train coming out of the station and I think all of us don't know how to stop it. We don't know how to really have input and it feels like July 11th is kind of an artificial date.”

But City Administrator Rob Gerdes said there's a good reason to get the deal completed as soon as possible.

“If this goes forward, we really want the surrounding development in Phase A to open at the same time as the stadium. And the more time it takes for the approval to happen, the more difficult that is,” Gerdes said. “So we need to get Hines active in permitting and raising equity in order to complete Phase A on time. And that is one of the reasons why we would like to move forward on the 11th.”

Rendering shows an aerial view of Tropicana Field and surrounding buildings
Hines/Tampa Bay Rays
This rendering shows and aerial view of the Tampa Bay Rays and surrounding buildings.

Chris Steinocher, president of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, said the deal with the team is essential to get the best use of the property.

“While we applaud this is about baseball and the Rays, we feel like this is more about that neighborhood,” Steinocher said, “and the stadium that's going to attract those people that are going to continue to work and live here in that million and a half square feet of office space. If we don't do this deal, that office space will not come. It won't come for five years. It probably won't come for 10 years.”

The hope is to open the stadium in 2028.

The 30,000-35,000 seat stadium would cost about $1.3 billion. St. Petersburg would contribute $287.5 million, with the Rays/Hines Partnership covering roughly half the total cost of the project. The city would allocate $142 million for roads and sewers. The roughly 65 acres at the Tropicana Field site would be sold for below the $105 million appraised value of the land.

The funding plan still needs approval from the Pinellas County Commission, who would chip in several hundred million dollars, mostly from county tourist bed taxes.

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