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St. Pete City Council leaders push pause on Tropicana Field redevelopment

Tropicana Field
Posted at 4:53 PM, Apr 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-23 08:19:05-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fl. — Plans to redevelop the 86-acre site around Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg are at a standstill as the Rays have yet to make a final decision to stay or go once their contract is up in 2027.

St. Pete leaders have narrowed down a list of redevelopment proposals to the top four. They’ve spent weeks getting community input. Now, any future development is once again on hold after city council members heard from the Rays Thursday.

St. Petersburg community leaders like Corey Givens Jr. are now wondering when we’ll see a path forward. “I definitely feel like there’s been too much of a focus placed on baseball and not enough of a focus placed on people in the community. We are stakeholders and we deserve to have a seat at the table. If they don’t give us a seat, we bring our own folding chair and make one,” he explained.

City council members have decided to wait until the end of the baseball season before moving ahead with any development proposals, which would bring office space, affordable housing, an entertainment complex, greenspace and other components to the Tropicana Field site. City council leaders hope by August or September, they will be able to get more clarity on the Rays’ future and if a sister city concept split between St. Pete and Montreal is doable.

Jeff Copeland, lives in St. Petersburg and has been following the Tropicana Field developments. He believes it’s good that city leaders are waiting to get more insight from the Rays. “I think whichever developer we pick needs to sit down and talk to the Rays as well. There has to be an inclusion situation with the Rays. That’s the only way it’s going to be a workable situation,” he added.

Most community members agree that a decision of this magnitude shouldn’t be rushed. But for Givens Jr., the project is personal. His family was among those who lived at the Tropicana Field site before it was razed in the 1980s to make way for a baseball stadium.

“I don’t want us to just throw a plan together because it looks well on paper. I want us to produce a plan that’s actually going to help the folks that were displaced from this site,” he elaborated.

The delay also puts developers in a tricky situation, not knowing when their proposals might advance.

Chuck Whittall is the President of Unicorp National Developments Company, one of the four finalists in the project to redevelop the 86-acres of land. He says Mayor Rick Kriseman called him Friday to say he’s still planning on moving forward, despite city council’s decision. “I know the Rays came in and made their own proposal. I don’t know why they wouldn’t keep it all on parallel tracks so they could look at everything and make the best decision for the city,” he added. “We would love to win this but at the end of the day we want what’s best for the city of St. Petersburg. Our developments are 1,3,5, 10 years so delaying this project doesn’t impact us much. We’re here when the time is right for it.”

The project is yet again facing more questions than answers like how much would a part-time stadium cost? How much would the Rays chip in? Would the Rays agree to stay long-term despite a split season?

Community members tell us they’re ready for some clarity.

“I want to make sure there is some sincerity behind city hall’s actions. I don’t want them to just come and say we talked to the community but I want them to say we listened to the community, we heard the community, we took our time making the decision and then we acted,” Givens Jr. said.

“The African American community that was displaced and those no longer around deserve to have something out there with inclusion and a footprint and at the end of the day, this should not be a rushed project,” Copeland added.

City council leaders plan to discuss the redevelopment again this upcoming August or September.