ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It's time to get serious about imagining what St. Pete would look like without Tropicana Field.
Today the City of St. Pete considers what to do with Tropicana Field, if and when the Tampa Bay Rays leave for Ybor City. The Tropicana field site is about to look a whole lot different and businesses are eager to jump on board.
St. Pete city leaders say they don’t want to see the Rays move out but insist they are prepared to move forward without them. The space they’d leave behind could be a good thing for the city.
But a trop without the Rays?
“It’s sad but it’s also progress and that’s what needs to be done," said fan Vincent Rumori.
A unanimous vote by St. Pete’s City Council asks HKS Architects, Inc. to make new designs for its redevelopment without a ballpark. This is the same firm that, back in 2017, designed a plan around the idea that the Rays would stay in St. Pete, and those plans may provide clues as to what this area will look like one day.
That plan included not just a new ballpark and parking, but corporate headquarters, a hotel and conference space, an entertainment zone, residential development, and even a research campus.
“I think it’s a great idea, I think it’s fantastic," said Rumori.
This Rays fan thinks the space, about 85 acres between the park and the parking lots, can be put to good use more importantly it means even more jobs.
Alan DeLisle, economic development administrator for the city, envisions the area will look a lot like Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. It's a tech hub with university research jobs. A mixture between commercial and research. Plus for the new Tropicana Field site you can expect hotels, office space, retail and a convention space.
“We think it’s one of the best sites in the country and probably the best site in Florida," said DeLisle.
He says ever since the Rays announced they’re eyeing
Ybor City, businesses and institutions have eagerly reached out with interest. While DeLisle won’t list out all the names of those that are interested he confirms Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and USF St. Pete have reached out.
The hospital said in a statement: "We’ve had some informal discussions with the City of St. Petersburg about the redevelopment of the Tropicana field site but nothing that has risen to the level of serious conversation at this point."
But could the Rays leaving actually be better for St. Pete?
“I think the site works well with or without the Rays. One could argue that it works even better without the Rays. Of course that depends on the outcome," said DeLisle.
Mayor Rick Kriseman tweeting: "Preparing the site for baseball and without baseball. St. Pete shines either way."
The architecture firm will be required to not only meet with many businesses interests in St. Pete, but the community will also be given a say in deciding what goes there, including neighborhood associations and the NAACP and the Pinellas County Urban League.
St. Pete will pay HKS $178,035 to develop a ballpark-less plan expected to be delivered to the city by September of 2018. A public hearing will happen sometime this summer.