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There’s no place like home as Tampa Bay Rays announce they are staying in St Pete

The Tampa Bay Rays have announced a deal to build a new stadium in St. Petersburg, ending speculation about the Rays relocating to another city.

There’s no place like home as Tampa Bay Rays announce they are staying in St Pete

Recently there has been much speculation that the Tampa Bay Rays would pack their bags and leave St Petersburg for a shiny new ballpark in Nashville, Orlando, or Tampa, and with

the Rays' current 30-year lease at the domed Tropicana Field ending in 2027, the franchise had been actively considered moving elsewhere.

But now the speculation is over, as today, Tuesday, September 19, the Rays have announced that there's no place like home, and will continue to call St Pete home as they reveal plans to build a new ballpark as part of a redeveloped Tropicana Field, but will it increase the consistently low attendance?

There’s no place like home as Tampa Bay Rays announce they are staying in St Pete

The Rays have officially announced that they have reached an agreement with the city of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County to build a new, $1.3 billion ballpark as part of the redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site.

There is still a public approval process that must take place over the next few months, but this is the first time the Rays have reached this step in their long-running pursuit of a new ballpark. As a result, it appears more likely than ever that the club will remain where they’ve been since their inaugural season in 1998: in downtown St. Petersburg.

“I am incredibly excited. This is a big, meaningful and really positive development,” team president Brian Auld said. “I also feel a ton of pressure to make sure that we can execute on this vision that particularly the mayor of St. Petersburg has entrusted us to deliver, but also the county commissioners. So we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”

The Rays’ proposal features an approximately 30,000-seat ballpark (with the capacity expanded to 35,000 for special events) with three seating levels, a fixed roof, an artificial turf field, operable walls and a pavilion design. The Rays would pay for more than half of the stadium’s estimated cost, with the city and county covering approximately $600 million and the Rays responsible for the rest.

According to the agreement, the entire investment in the development project is projected to be more than $6 billion. Approximately 15-20 acres, including the ballpark and two event parking garages, would be owned by Pinellas County, leased to St. Petersburg and subleased to the Rays on a 30-year lease agreement with options to extend it to 40 years.

The club’s current 30-year use agreement at Tropicana Field expires after the 2027 season. If the agreement is approved and everything goes according to plan, ballpark construction would be begin in late 2024 and be completed by late ‘27, with the Rays playing there on Opening Day 2028.

In January, St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch selected the Rays and their development partner Hines as his preferred choice to redevelop the Tropicana Field site, with the ballpark just one part of the development plan, which also includes multifamily housing units, office and medical space, retail space, hotel rooms, senior living residences, an entertainment venue, conference and meeting space, the Woodson African American Museum of Florida and parking.

There’s no place like home as Tampa Bay Rays announce they are staying in St Pete

But what about the Rays low attendance? the Rays believe that a new ballpark, combined with the redeveloped area around it and their continued success on the field, will drive further interest and higher attendance numbers.

“We think there’s a number of things that are going to allow us to materially increase attendance going forward,” Auld said. “The first is that we’re going to have a better ballpark surrounded by a world-class destination, so we expect more people to come to enjoy that incredible ballpark and all the wonderful things we’re going to have around it."

There’s no place like home as Tampa Bay Rays announce they are staying in St Pete

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