St. Pete Mayor Ken Welch says the city is going back to the drawing board on Tropicana Field redevelopment

Many thought he'd share his pick for a developer at the 86-acre site.

St. Pete Mayor Ken Welch says the city is going back to the drawing board on Tropicana Field redevelopment
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Despite the thirst of local newspapers, their investors, and some of the richest people in Tampa, the Rays’ plans for an Ybor City stadium feel more out of reach than ever lately—and it looks like fans are going to have to wait longer to see what happens at the site of St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field, too.

At a Wednesday press conference, St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch said that the city is tossing out the previous administration's Request For Proposal (RFP) and starting over when it comes to the redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site.

Welch added that the he expects to have a new RFP ready by August and will use the next few weeks to hold community outreach events, and consider online feedback received via form available at stpete.org/gasplant.

Welch’s announcement comes nearly seven months after his predecessor, former Mayor Rick Kriseman, completed a long request for the RFP process that ended with the selection of Midtown Development for redevelopment of the historically-Black, bulldozed, and grave-pocked neighborhood around the Trop.

At the time, Welch made no promises to honor Kriseman’s pick, but did say he would put the same effort Kriseman did into making a selection. Kriseman also did make clear that neither he nor Welch would be the last mayor to handle redevelopment of the 86-acre site.

Welch made clear on Wednesday that his decision to start the RFP process over had nothing to do with Kriseman's pick. "The length of time since the RFP issuance, and our current environment and circumstances, warrant a fresh look. We recognize the prior administration’s diligence and look forward to building on their foundational work," he said.

Welch told reporters that the community needs to be able to weigh in again and that the Rays vision has to work in the community plan for the site. He hopes that two finalists for Kriseman's RFP, Sugar Hill and Midtown, will submit again.

"I am confident we can get that done this year," Welch said. "I don't believe that waiting a few more months to get this right is unreasonable."

In a statement, Midtown owner Alex Vadia said his company was honored to have spent the last few years working with St. Petersburg officials, adding that, " We wish Mayor Ken Welch and the residents of the City of St. Petersburg all the best in their future efforts to redevelop Tropicana Field."

While that more or less sounds like Midtown is bowing out, a spokesperson for Sugar Hill said their group has plans to resubmit when the new RFP is released.

In its statement, Sugar Hill also thanked city officials and the community, adding that the group continues to be inspired by community, business, and faith leaders' commitments to making St. Petersburg the very best version of itself.
"Our environment has changed in many ways since the initial RFP was issued in July of 2020, and we must ensure the RFP meets our current environment and realities and incorporates the most up-to-date information," Welch said in a statement, which laid out five new conditions that must be considered in the new RFP process.
  • The Pandemic has changed the way we work and has affected the potential need for office space.
  • The cost of rental housing and home ownership has skyrocketed, bringing higher priority to the need for affordable and workforce housing.
  • Supply chain and labor issues are impacting the cost of capital projects.
  • The need for intentional equity and equitable development is highlighted by results of the city’s Disparity Study and Structural Racism report completed after the issuance of the original RFP.
  • The community’s desire for equity is reflected in the Community Benefits model adopted by City Council last year.
Many media outlets suspected that Welch might take what was teased as a “major announcement” to finally say who he wants for the job, before tossing the decision to city council, but what’s most clear now is that the City of St. Petersburg is going to get a chance to participate in another RFP process surrounding one of its most newsmaking tracts of land.

A big question looming over today’s decision is what the local baseball team—which has threatened to pack its bags and split seasons with Montreal if it couldn’t get money for a stadium—is going to do now that the clock is ticking even louder on the Tropicana Field lease which runs out in 2027.

"While the expiration of the Rays lease on Tropicana Field in 2027 represents a real time constraint, it is crucial that this generational project be done right," Welch added. "Emphasis must be placed on meeting the city’s needs, delivering progress for our residents and building a district that will be a world class destination to visit, live and work."

Welch's statement explicitly said, "We are soliciting proposals containing a new baseball stadium, in lieu of including proposals that contemplate a site without one."

Affordable housing, support for St. Pete's Community Pillars for Progress and a "Gas Plant Promise" are also among the priorities in the Welch administration's RFP.

"The site also must effectively recognize, honor, and support the community displaced due to construction of the original stadium, in an impactful and sustainable manner," he said. "Further, the site should consider equitable access to all residents, visitors and stakeholders while continuing to pursue equitable opportunities for education, youth opportunities, economic activity and recreation. We are also mindful of any city subsidy and will consider that in all proposals."

About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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