After a 16 year battle for a new stadium, the Tampa Bay Rays are finally set to announce a deal to build a luxurious new downtown St. Pete stadium that will be domes and seat 30,000+ fans.
This is an enormous moment of relief for Tampa Bay Rays fans who have been concerned for years that the team’s ownership would relocate the Rays to another city if a stadium deal wasn’t reached. And while fans throughout the greater Tampa Bay region will certainly nitpick over the final location for the new stadium, as it’s also the location of the current stadium, this is ultimately the best outcome as it keeps the team in Tampa Bay.
According to Tampa Bay Rays insider Marc Topkin at the Tampa Bay Times, the Rays are set to announce the deal for their new stadium on Tuesday. The stadium is expected to be built in downtown St. Pete in the Historic Gas Plant District (current home of Tropicana Field) and it will be ready before the 2028 season. Topkin’s report says:
Based on preliminary information shared in January, the stadium is expected to have a fixed dome roof and artificial turf field, seat around 30,000 and cost in excess of $1.2 billion, with contributions from the team, St. Petersburg and Pinellas County.
Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg told the Tampa Bay Times on Sept. 8 that talks with the city and county were “moving along at a very nice pace” and he was “highly optimistic” of a deal being reached by the end of the year.
Topkin also reports that the team plans to pay for “half or more” of the stadium building project.
The Rays’ lease with Tropicana Field, often regarded by outsiders as one of if not the worst stadium in baseball, is set to expire in 2027. The clock was ticking for the team to complete a deal for a new stadium or they were almost certainly going to be moved to another city. Nashville was always a team mentioned as a possible destination for the Rays.
Tropicana Field has always occupied a special place in my heart. From the early ‘Devil Rays’ days when the team was a disaster but going to a Devil Rays v Red Sox game meant there was a 50% chance you’d see the benches clear after Pedro plunked a Rays player and our team retaliated.
To the 2007-ish era when Evan Longoria, James Shields, Carl Crawford, David Price, and co. ushered in a new era of success and local fans started filling the seats as the Rays started going deep in the Playoffs for the first time. It was special to see that stadium transform from a place best known for monster truck rallies, college fairs, and Christian Rock concerts to an actual baseball stadium that housed one of the best teams in baseball over the past 10 years.
Plans to redevelop the Gas Plant District were put into motion by St. Pete’s Mayor Welch earlier this year:
The future looks bright as the Rays will now have a new stadium by 2028, a stadium that will usher in a new era in downtown St. Pete by transforming an 86-acre area near the current stadium that is ripe for redevelopment.