The search for a new stadium began almost 15 years ago and three mayors. Rick Baker was the mayor of St. Pete when the Rays proposed to build a new stadium on the downtown St. Pete waterfront in 2007.
The Rays’ plan to build on the waterfront would have required majority public approval via a referendum. But after public hesitation and fear that the proposal would not pass, the Rays backed out of their plan to put a referendum on the ballot.
In 2010, Rays owner Stu Sternberg held a press conference asking the City of St. Pete for permission to explore new stadium sites outside of St. Pete. Ray’s current contract prohibits them from watching outside the city limits. The City of St. Pete didn’t grant the Rays permission to watch out of town until 2016.
In 2018, the Rays announced their decision to pursue a new stadium site across the bay in Ybor City. However, concerns over funding ultimately killed the deal.
In 2019, a plan to split the season between Tampa Bay and Montreal was proposed by Rays ownership. Mayor Kriseman said the city would not help fund a new stadium if the team split its time between two cities. Later, MLB executives announced they were scrapping the idea of a two-city season plan.
Meanwhile, in 2020, the City of St. Pete issued a tender to find a master developer to lead the redevelopment of Tropicana Field. Interested development groups were asked to submit two scenarios, one with an approximate stage and one without an approximate stage.
Seven proposals were released by the City of St. Pete in early 2021. After narrowing the list from seven to four, then four to two, Mayor Kriseman announced his selection of Midtown just a month before the end of his mandate at the end of the year.
Following Mayor Welch’s inauguration in early 2022, he announced that he would reconsider the two main tender proposals – Midtown Development and Sugar Hill.
This brings us to today, where Mayor Welch has decided to go back to the drawing board and restart the RFP process.
Although some important questions have been answered today, the clock keeps ticking. The Rays’ current deal has them play at Tropicana Field through the 2027 season. It takes time to design and build a new stadium, not to mention where the stadium will be built and who will pay for it.
“I am optimistic that we will choose the right path, one that will bring jobs, fair and diverse business opportunities, meet our needs for housing, meeting space and innovative economic engines, and support a state-of-the-art home for the Rays for decades to come,” Mayor Welch said.