by Amy Keller
Updated 3 yearss ago
As they remake their baseball team, the owners of the Tampa Bay Rays say they want to transform St. Petersburg’s downtown as well. In November, the 12-year-old team’s ownership group, led by principal owner Stuart Sternberg, a former partner in Goldman Sachs, made several trades, dropped “Devil” from the team’s name and introduced new team uniforms.
Sternberg then unveiled a plan to build a modern, $450-million ballpark on the waterfront site of Al Lang Field, where the Rays play their spring training games until 2009. The team plans to put up at least $150 million itself. It’s hoping the city will contribute the rest by selling the acreage that includes the team’s current stadium, Tropicana Field, to a developer for a mix of office, retail, restaurants and residential. The team is working with Hines, a prominent Houston-based real estate development company, to develop a plan for the 85-acre Tropicana Field site. But since the city owns the Al Lang site and leases the Tropicana Field property from Pinellas County, the deal can’t proceed without voter approval. Meanwhile, the team dropped plans to seek a $60-million sales tax break from the state.
The Rays propose a 34,000-seat design; retractable, sail-like fabric will hang from a 320-foot mast to shield the field from sun and rain. Concerns about heat and humidity at an outdoor field persist, however. The site also lacks dedicated parking, and the team will have to fill in a small section of the bay.
The Rays’ owners think a new field will help showcase both the Rays and downtown St. Petersburg. Says Sternberg: “It will be an iconic landmark for the entire Tampa Bay region and showcase all that is great about Major League Baseball in Florida.”