Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg announced today the Rays’ plans for a new 34,000 seat, retractable-roof, open-air ballpark on the St. Petersburg waterfront at the site of historic Al Lang Field.
“Our vision is to build a breath-taking and contemporary waterfront ballpark,” said Sternberg. “It will be an iconic landmark for the entire Tampa Bay region and showcase all that is great about Major League Baseball in the State of Florida.”
(Click the image provided to see a high resolution version)
At a press conference conducted in the outfield of Progress Energy Park, home of Al Lang Field, Sternberg and the Rays introduced renderings of the proposed ballpark which will provide an intimate baseball venue and offer sweeping views of the picturesque St. Petersburg waterfront. The design draws upon the 100-year history of baseball and spring training on the Al Lang site. In addition to modern fan- and family-friendly amenities, the ballpark will feature 360 degree circulation, air-conditioned concourses with open views to the playing field, the smallest upper deck in baseball, and a new public park that will seamlessly link the waterfront park system to the north of the ballpark with the emerging cultural district to its south.
The ballpark design also includes a unique retractable roof which will shield the playing field and fans from the elements yet still maintain an intimate environment. The roof will be comprised of a light weatherproof fabric that will be pulled along cables that are suspended between arches on one end and a central mast structure on the other. It will take approximately 8 minutes to open or close the roof, and, even when the roof is deployed, the feel of an open-air ballpark will be maintained. The Rays have worked closely with a team of architects and engineers, led by HOK Sport, on the design. The total cost for the ballpark is estimated to be $450 million.
The design also takes advantage of the Al Lang site’s proximity to the existing interstate highway network and over 12,000 publicly-accessible parking spaces in downtown St. Petersburg. In addition, 5,000 overflow parking spaces will be available on the Tropicana Field site.
The Rays and the City of St. Petersburg have been evaluating financing alternatives for the facility. The ballpark financing will include a large contribution by the Rays. An essential component of the financing is the redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site into a major retail, entertainment, and housing development. The Rays also expect to seek financing assistance from the State of Florida.
“We are eager to advance our discussions with the City of St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, and the State of Florida to reach agreement on an appropriate financing plan for these projects,” said Rays President Matt Silverman. “We believe this ballpark can be built without any new taxes, and we will work in partnership with the public to make these projects a reality.”
The Rays have partnered with Hines, a leading national developer of high-quality and environmentally-friendly mixed-use projects, to develop a site plan on the Tropicana Field redevelopment. Hines envisions creating an entirely new community at the Tropicana Field site, with new shops and restaurants, residential buildings (including affordable workforce housing), street-level retail, entertainment venues and new parks and open spaces.
“We are excited about this opportunity to work with the Rays and the City of St. Petersburg,” said Hines Senior Vice President Michael Harrison. “We can transform Tropicana Field and its parking lots into a thriving neighborhood of residences, shops, entertainment and parkland.”
The waterfront ballpark and Tropicana Field redevelopment projects are estimated to bring more than $1 billion in investment to St. Petersburg, create thousands of construction and permanent jobs, and generate tens of millions of dollars in increased tax revenue for St. Petersburg, Pinellas County and its schools. The Rays expect both the new ballpark and the Tropicana Field redevelopment will qualify for LEED-certification, the highest standard of environmentally responsible construction.
“We look forward to working with the community to develop this vision for the future of St. Petersburg,” said Michael Kalt, Rays Senior Vice President of Development and Business Affairs. “These twin development projects will be a significant economic development engine, drawing visitors from around the region into the heart of downtown, and extending greater economic opportunity into Midtown and beyond."
Today’s announcement kicks off a year-long public process for the two projects. The Rays will conduct extensive public outreach to present plans and gather feedback on all aspects of these developments. Hines must also compete for the rights to redevelop the Tropicana Field site through a Request for Proposal (RFP) process managed by the City. In addition to the RFP process on the Tropicana Field site, the City Council would also need to approve adding to the November 2008 ballot a referendum to authorize the construction of the new ballpark on the site of Al Lang Field. Following referendum approval, construction on both sites is anticipated to begin in mid-2009, with the new ballpark ready by Opening Day 2012. The retail, commercial, and housing development on the Tropicana Field site is scheduled to open in 2011 and continue through approximately 2013.
"Downtown St. Petersburg has undergone a tremendous renaissance in recent years,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker. “We look forward to exploring this opportunity with the Rays."
Up to date information on the progress of the development plan can be obtained at www.majorleaguedowntown.com. The website will include an overview of the project, artist renderings, videos, a virtual tour and a timeline for completion of the projects. Fans may also sign up for email updates on the projects and join the Rays season ticket priority list.
The Rays will continue to operate under their current lease agreement at Tropicana Field during this process. Tropicana Field was completed in 1990 as a multi-purpose stadium. Tampa Bay was awarded a Major League Baseball franchise in 1995, and the facility underwent an $85 million renovation before the Rays (then named the Devil Rays) began play in 1998. The domed Tropicana Field, one of only five multipurpose stadiums in baseball, was the last baseball stadium constructed before Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore ushered in a new era of ballpark design and innovation.
Progress Energy Park, home of Al Lang Field, will host the Rays 2008 Spring Training before the team moves to Charlotte County for the 2009 spring season. The field is named after Al Lang, former mayor of St. Petersburg, who, in 1914, convinced Branch Rickey to move his St. Louis Browns to the city for Spring Training. Since then, nine teams have trained in the city. Since 1998, the Rays have played their Spring Training games at Progress Energy Park, home of Al Lang Field.
(Renderings and information courtesy of Tampa Bay Rays. More images as they are made available, so check back often at The Biz of Baseball)
Maury Brown is the founder and president of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football and The Biz of Basketball (The Biz of Hockey will be launching shortly). He is also an author for Baseball Prospectus, Basketball Prospectus and is an available writer for other media outlets.
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