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Rays Stadium: Where are we?

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Rays Stadium Update: On May 7, 2024, the Committee of the Whole convened to discuss the highly anticipated Rays Stadium project. The hearing brought to light various concerns, highlighted critical aspects of the project, and delved into its financial implications for the city and county. The discussion also revealed a spectrum of opinions, with both opposition and support among council members and the public. Here are the basic highlights. We also have a much more in-depth information below the article for those who want to know more. 

Previous Article

During the St. Petersburg City Council Meeting of the Whole on May 9, 2024, the council delved into the proposed redevelopment of the Historic Gas Plant District, which includes plans for a new Tampa Bay Rays stadium. Mayor Ken Welch opened the meeting by expressing his support for the $6.5 billion deal with the Rays and developer Hines, highlighting its potential for fiscal responsibility, equity, job creation, and economic opportunities[5][7][8][9].

However, the meeting also surfaced several concerns from council members. Lisset Hanewicz questioned the continued involvement of Rays owner Stu Sternberg as a developer should he sell the team. Richie Floyd raised issues regarding the lack of detailed plans for a construction apprenticeship program. Additionally, there were criticisms about the proposed amount of affordable housing being insufficient[5][7][8][9].

Rays Stadium

The council pressed city officials and representatives from the Rays and Hines for more detailed information and suggested modifications to the plan. Given the complexity of the agreements and the need for thorough review, the city decided to postpone the follow-up meeting originally scheduled for May 23, to allow more time for council members to examine all details before proceeding with further discussions and potential votes[5][7][8][9].

Outside the meeting, protesters from the “No Home Run” group voiced their opposition, arguing for higher rent payments from the Rays/Hines, a revenue split with the city/county, and a higher purchase price for the land[5][7][8][9].

The council’s deliberations and the postponement of the follow-up meeting indicate a cautious approach to finalizing the redevelopment plans. While the Rays aim to inaugurate the new stadium by Opening Day 2028, the delay in approval votes could potentially push the timeline to July 2024 or later[5][7][8][9].

Rays Stadium

Rays Stadium Meeting: The Details

Council Members in Support of the Rays Stadium Project

Council Member Gerdes:

  • Economic Growth: Emphasized the potential for job creation and increased tourism, which could boost the local economy.
  • City Infrastructure: Highlighted the importance of modernizing city infrastructure and saw the stadium as a key component of this effort.
  • Community Engagement: Supported the project as a source of community pride and a venue for local events and youth programs.

Council Member Hanewicz:

  • Long-Term Benefits: Stressed the long-term economic benefits, including potential revenue from events and sponsorships.
  • Public-Private Partnerships: Advocated for leveraging public-private partnerships to share the financial burden and mitigate the impact on the city’s budget.

Council Member Gabbard:

  • Community and Cultural Impact: Believed the stadium would serve as a cultural hub and a focal point for community gatherings and events.
  • Economic Development: Supported the idea that the stadium could act as a catalyst for further development in the surrounding areas.

Council Members Opposed to the Rays Stadium Project

Council Member Floyd:

  • Budget Allocation: Raised concerns about prioritizing funds for the stadium over other critical infrastructure needs such as affordable housing and sidewalk repairs.
  • Debt Concerns: Highlighted the potential long-term debt implications and the strain on the city’s financial health.

Council Member Muhammad:

  • Equity Issues: Emphasized the need for a more equitable distribution of resources, ensuring that all residents benefit from public investments.
  • Gentrification Risks: Voiced concerns about the potential for gentrification and displacement of long-term residents in the stadium’s vicinity.

Council Member Driscoll:

  • Community Impact: Expressed worries about increased traffic congestion and the strain on local infrastructure.
  • Environmental Concerns: Called for comprehensive environmental assessments and measures to mitigate negative effects on local ecosystems and green spaces.

Council Members with Conditional Support for the Rays Stadium

Council Member Montanari:

  • Comprehensive Planning: Offered conditional support, emphasizing the need for thorough cost-benefit analyses and alignment with broader city goals.
  • Mitigation Measures: Supported the project if adequate measures were taken to address traffic, environmental, and community impact concerns.

Council Member Figgs-Sanders:

  • Transparent Communication: Advocated for transparency and regular communication with the public to build trust and ensure the project meets community needs.
  • Balanced Approach: Stressed the importance of balancing immediate needs with long-term benefits and ensuring fiscal responsibility.

The Rays Stadium project has divided opinions among council members, reflecting the complexity and scale of the investment. While some members are enthusiastic about the potential economic and cultural benefits, others are concerned about financial priorities, equity, and community impact. Moving forward, the project will require careful planning, transparent communication, and active community involvement to address these concerns and achieve a balanced, equitable outcome.

Rays Stadium

Future Steps for the Rays Stadium Project

The council hearing on the Rays Stadium project laid out a roadmap for how the process will unfold from here. Ensuring the project’s success will involve several key stages, each with critical actions and milestones. Here’s a detailed look at how the rest of the process is expected to play out:

Further Negotiations and Planning

Ongoing Negotiations:

  • Stakeholder Engagement: The city will continue to engage with various stakeholders, including the Tampa Bay Rays organization, private investors, and community groups. These negotiations aim to finalize the terms of the project, including financial contributions, design specifications, and operational agreements.
  • Private Partnerships: Efforts will be made to solidify partnerships with private investors to share the financial burden and enhance the project’s viability. This includes exploring opportunities for sponsorships, naming rights, and other revenue-generating partnerships.
  • Detailed Planning
  • Design and Architecture: Finalizing the architectural design and ensuring that the stadium meets modern standards and community expectations. This phase will involve selecting architects and contractors and developing detailed blueprints.
  • Environmental Impact Assessments: Conducting comprehensive environmental assessments to understand and mitigate the project’s impact on local ecosystems, green spaces, and community health.
  • Community Consultations and Feedback

Public Engagement:

  • Town Hall Meetings: Organizing town hall meetings and public forums to gather feedback from residents and address their concerns. This ensures that the community’s voice is heard and incorporated into the planning process.
  • Surveys and Feedback Channels: Utilizing surveys, online feedback forms, and other channels to collect input from a broader audience. This helps to ensure that a diverse range of perspectives is considered.
  • Addressing Concerns
  • Transparency: Providing regular updates on the project’s progress through public communications, including updates on the city’s website, newsletters, and social media.
  • Responsive Planning: Adjusting plans based on community feedback, addressing issues related to traffic, parking, environmental impact, and community benefits.
  • Financial Planning and Budgeting

Securing Funding:

  • Budget Allocation: Finalizing the allocation of funds from the city’s budget and identifying any necessary adjustments. This includes setting aside funds for initial construction costs and long-term operational expenses.
  • State and Federal Grants: Applying for state and federal grants to supplement the funding for the project. These grants can provide significant financial support and reduce the burden on local resources.
  • Bond Issuance: Issuing municipal bonds to raise capital for the project. This involves setting terms for the bonds, including interest rates and repayment schedules, to ensure the debt remains manageable.
  • Cost Management
  • Detailed Cost Estimates: Developing detailed cost estimates for each phase of the project to ensure accurate budgeting and financial planning.
  • Contingency Planning: Setting aside contingency funds to address unexpected costs and ensure the project remains on track and within budget.

Implementation and Construction

Project Phases:

  • Pre-Construction Activities: Completing pre-construction activities such as site preparation, utility relocations, and initial groundwork. This phase includes obtaining necessary permits and approvals.
  • Construction Milestones: Establishing key milestones for the construction phase, including timelines for major project components like the stadium structure, seating, and facilities.
  • Quality Control
  • Regular Inspections: Conducting regular inspections and quality control checks to ensure that construction meets all design specifications and standards.
  • Progress Reports: Providing periodic progress reports to the city council and the public to keep everyone informed about the project’s status.
  • Finalization and Opening
  • Completion of Construction:
  • Final Inspections: Performing final inspections and obtaining necessary certifications to ensure the stadium is safe and ready for use.
  • Finishing Touches: Completing any remaining work, such as landscaping, interior design, and installation of technology and amenities.
  • Opening Events
  • Grand Opening: Planning and executing a grand opening event to celebrate the completion of the stadium. This event will include community activities, tours, and possibly the first major game or event.
  • Ongoing Operations: Establishing operational procedures for the stadium, including management, maintenance, and scheduling of events.
  • Monitoring and Evaluation
  • Post-Opening Review
  • Performance Evaluation: Assessing the stadium’s performance in terms of economic impact, community engagement, and operational efficiency. This includes measuring job creation, revenue generation, and public satisfaction.
  • Feedback Loop: Continuing to gather feedback from the community and stakeholders to make necessary adjustments and improvements.
  • Long-Term Planning
  • Sustainability Initiatives: Implementing sustainability initiatives to ensure the stadium remains environmentally friendly and energy-efficient.
  • Future Development: Exploring opportunities for future development and enhancements around the stadium area to maximize its impact on the city’s growth and development.

The future steps for the Rays Stadium project involve a detailed and multifaceted approach, ensuring thorough planning, community involvement, and financial prudence. By following these steps, the city aims to create a stadium that not only enhances its infrastructure but also serves as a source of pride and economic growth for the community.

Rays Stadium

Financial Overview of the Rays Stadium Project

The Rays Stadium project is a major component of the city’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). During the council hearing, the financial implications of the project were a significant focus. Here’s a more detailed look at the financial aspects discussed:

Total FY25 CIP Budget

The total Capital Improvement Plan budget for FY25 is projected at $202.522 million. This budget includes various projects across the city, such as infrastructure improvements, public safety enhancements, and community development initiatives. The Rays Stadium project is one of the largest and most high-profile investments in this plan.

Budget Breakdown

  • Allocation to Rays Stadium: A substantial portion of the CIP budget is earmarked for the Rays Stadium project. The exact figures were not disclosed during the initial presentation, but it was emphasized that this project represents a significant investment within the overall budget.
  • Penny for Pinellas Fund: The Penny for Pinellas Fund, which comes from a sales tax revenue stream, is a crucial source of funding for the stadium project. The current estimate for Penny Round 4 revenue is $389 million over ten years, a slight decrease from last year’s projection of $392 million due to an anticipated slowdown in growth. For FY25, the Penny Fund allocations include $41.142 million across various projects, with a portion directed to the stadium.

Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Categories:

  • Public Safety: $5 million, including funds for ladder truck replacement, public safety training facilities, and police vehicles.
  • Citywide Infrastructure: $25.106 million, covering street and road improvements, sanitary sewer projects, bridge reconstruction, and affordable housing land acquisition.
  • Water Resources: $120.58 million, the largest allocation, emphasizing the importance of water infrastructure.
  • Other Funds: Smaller allocations for general city improvements and specific community projects.

Revenue Sources

The Rays Stadium project will be financed through a combination of revenue sources:

  • City and County Funds: Both the city and county will contribute to the project’s funding, leveraging their respective budgets to support the development.
  • Sales Tax Revenue: As mentioned, the Penny for Pinellas Fund is a key revenue stream, providing a steady flow of funds through the dedicated sales tax.
  • Private Investments: The city is also exploring partnerships with private investors to share the financial burden and ensure the project’s viability.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

A comprehensive cost-benefit analysis is essential to justify the substantial investment in the Rays Stadium. This analysis will consider:

  • Economic Impact: Potential job creation, increased tourism, and revenue from stadium events.
  • Long-Term Benefits: Improved infrastructure, enhanced city profile, and potential for attracting further investments.
  • Opportunity Costs: Evaluating what other projects or needs might be delayed or underfunded due to the allocation of resources to the stadium.

Debt Management

The city’s approach to managing debt for the Rays Stadium project involves careful planning and prudent financial management:

  • Debt Issuance: Issuing bonds or other debt instruments to finance the project, with a clear repayment plan to ensure financial stability.
  • Debt Service: Allocating funds from the city’s revenue streams to service the debt without compromising other essential services.
  • Fiscal Responsibility: Ensuring that the debt levels remain within sustainable limits and do not adversely affect the city’s credit rating or financial health.
  • Community and Stakeholder Involvement
  • The financial planning for the Rays Stadium project includes input from various stakeholders, including:
  • City Council: Active involvement in budgeting and oversight to ensure transparency and accountability.
  • Public Consultations: Engaging with the community to gather feedback and address concerns, ensuring that the project meets the needs and expectations of residents.
  • Partnerships: Collaborating with private entities and other governmental bodies to maximize resources and share financial responsibilities.

In summary, the financial overview of the Rays Stadium project reflects a strategic approach to funding and managing one of the city’s most significant infrastructure investments. By balancing immediate needs with long-term benefits and ensuring prudent debt management, the city aims to make the Rays Stadium a cornerstone of economic and community development.

Rays Stadium

Concerns Raised About the Rays Stadium Project

The council hearing on the Rays Stadium project brought up several significant concerns from council members and the public. These concerns primarily revolved around budget allocation, economic impact, and community effects. Here’s a detailed breakdown of these issues:

Budget Allocation Concerns

  1. Prioritization of Funds:
  • Infrastructure Needs: Several council members expressed worries that allocating substantial funds to the Rays Stadium might detract from other critical infrastructure projects. For example, funds earmarked for the stadium could potentially reduce the budget for necessary sidewalk repairs, street improvements, and public safety enhancements.
  • Affordable Housing: The city’s ongoing affordable housing initiatives could be impacted. While $1.024 million is allocated for affordable workforce housing in the FY25 CIP budget, some council members felt that more could be done if resources were not diverted to the stadium project.
  • Community Services: Concerns were raised that essential community services might face budget cuts. Investments in parks, recreational facilities, and community centers are vital for the city’s well-being, and there is a fear that these could be compromised.
  • Long-Term Financial Commitments:
  • Debt Burden: The project’s financing plan includes issuing bonds, which will increase the city’s debt. Council members stressed the importance of ensuring that this debt remains manageable and does not jeopardize the city’s financial stability.
  • Operational Costs: Beyond construction, the ongoing operational costs of maintaining the stadium need careful consideration. These include utilities, staffing, and maintenance, which will be long-term financial commitments.

Economic Impact Concerns

  1. Return on Investment:
  • Job Creation: While proponents argue that the stadium will create jobs, some council members questioned the quality and longevity of these jobs. They emphasized the need for permanent, well-paying jobs rather than temporary construction positions.
  • Tourism and Revenue: The potential boost in tourism and city revenue from stadium events is promising but uncertain. Council members stressed the importance of having a robust plan to ensure these economic benefits are realized.
  • Opportunity Costs
  • Other Projects: Investing heavily in the stadium might mean delaying or canceling other significant projects. This includes upgrades to public transportation, improvements to city infrastructure, and initiatives aimed at sustainability and environmental resilience.
  • Local Business Impact: There were concerns about how the stadium might affect local businesses. While some businesses might benefit from increased foot traffic, others might struggle with the construction phase and potential changes in the local economy.

Community Impact Concerns

  1. Traffic and Accessibility:
  • Increased Congestion: The stadium is expected to draw large crowds, which could lead to increased traffic congestion in the surrounding areas. Council members and residents are worried about the potential for traffic bottlenecks and parking issues.
  • Public Transportation: There is a need for enhanced public transportation options to mitigate traffic concerns. Ensuring that the stadium is accessible via public transit is crucial for reducing congestion and making the stadium more accessible to all residents:
  • Environmental Concerns
  • Sustainability: The environmental impact of the stadium construction and operation was a significant concern. Council members called for comprehensive environmental impact assessments and the incorporation of sustainable practices in the project’s design and execution.
  • Green Spaces: The stadium’s footprint could potentially reduce available green spaces in the city. Ensuring that the project includes green areas and does not lead to the destruction of existing parks and recreational spaces is essential.
  • Community Displacement
  • Gentrification: There were fears that the stadium could lead to gentrification, driving up property values and potentially displacing lower-income residents. Council members emphasized the importance of developing strategies to protect vulnerable communities and ensure that the benefits of the stadium are shared equitably.
  • Public Opinion and Engagement
  • Transparency: Ensuring transparency throughout the project’s development is critical. Council members called for regular updates and open communication with the public to address concerns and incorporate community feedback.
  • Engagement: Active public engagement is necessary to ensure that the stadium meets the community’s needs and expectations. This includes holding public consultations, surveys, and forums to gather input and keep residents informed.

The concerns raised during the council hearing underscore the complexity and scale of the Rays Stadium project. While there is recognition of the potential benefits, the allocation of funds, economic impact, and community effects are critical issues that need to be addressed. The council members emphasized the need for careful planning, transparent communication, and active community engagement to ensure the project’s success and mitigate any adverse impacts.

Support and Opposition: The Spectrum of Opinions on the Rays Stadium Project

During the council hearing, the Rays Stadium project elicited a wide range of opinions from council members, stakeholders, and the public. Here’s a detailed look at the various perspectives expressed:

In Favor of the Rays Stadium Project

Economic Growth Potential:

  • Job Creation: Proponents highlighted that the stadium would create both temporary construction jobs and permanent positions related to stadium operations, maintenance, and events. This influx of jobs is seen as a crucial driver for local employment.
  • Tourism Boost: The stadium is expected to attract tourists, not only for baseball games but also for concerts, conventions, and other large-scale events. Increased tourism would benefit local hotels, restaurants, and retail businesses.
  • Enhanced City Infrastructure
  • Modern Facilities: Supporters argue that the new stadium will replace outdated facilities, providing a modern, state-of-the-art venue that enhances the city’s infrastructure. This upgrade is viewed as essential for maintaining the city’s competitive edge.
  • Catalyst for Development: The stadium is seen as a catalyst for further development in the surrounding area. This includes potential investments in housing, commercial spaces, and public amenities, spurred by the increased activity and interest in the region.
  • Community and Cultural Benefits
  • Community Pride: A new stadium is seen as a source of community pride, providing a venue for residents to gather and enjoy sports and entertainment. It represents an investment in the city’s cultural and social fabric.
  • Youth and Sports Programs: Proponents highlight the potential for the stadium to support youth and sports programs. Partnerships with local schools and organizations could provide access to facilities and promote physical activity and community engagement.
  • Financial Strategies and Partnerships
  • Public-Private Partnerships: Supporters emphasize the importance of leveraging public-private partnerships to share the financial burden. Collaborating with private investors can help secure additional funding and reduce the strain on public resources.
  • Long-Term Revenue: The stadium is projected to generate significant long-term revenue through ticket sales, events, sponsorships, and naming rights. This revenue can be reinvested into the city’s infrastructure and services.

Opposition to the Rays Stadium Project

  1. Financial Concerns:
  • High Costs: Opponents are concerned about the high upfront costs of constructing the stadium. They argue that the funds could be better spent on other urgent needs, such as affordable housing, public safety, and infrastructure repairs.
  • Debt Implications: The project’s reliance on issuing bonds and accruing debt raises red flags for those worried about the city’s financial health. There is concern that servicing this debt could limit the city’s financial flexibility and lead to cuts in other areas.
  • Equity and Prioritization
  • Resource Allocation: Critics argue that the stadium project prioritizes entertainment over essential services. They emphasize the need for a more equitable distribution of resources, ensuring that all residents benefit from public investments.
  • Gentrification Risks: There are fears that the stadium could accelerate gentrification in the surrounding areas, driving up property values and rents, and potentially displacing long-term residents and small businesses.
  • Community Impact
  • Traffic and Congestion: Opponents are concerned about the potential for increased traffic and congestion around the stadium. They worry that the influx of visitors will strain local infrastructure and reduce the quality of life for nearby residents.
  • Environmental Concerns: The environmental impact of the stadium’s construction and operation is a significant issue. Critics call for comprehensive environmental assessments and measures to mitigate negative effects on local ecosystems and green spaces.
  • Skepticism about Economic Benefits:
  • Uncertain ROI: Skeptics question the projected economic benefits, such as job creation and increased tourism. They argue that similar projects in other cities have not always delivered the promised returns and caution against overly optimistic projections.
  • Long-Term Viability: There is concern about the long-term viability of the stadium. Critics point to other cities where stadiums have struggled to attract events and maintain profitability, leading to ongoing financial burdens for the municipality.

Balanced Perspectives

  1. Conditional Support:
  • Comprehensive Planning: Some council members and stakeholders offer conditional support, emphasizing the need for comprehensive planning and robust financial strategies. They advocate for thorough cost-benefit analyses and ensuring that the project aligns with broader city goals.
  • Community Involvement: There is a call for active community involvement in the planning process. Ensuring that residents have a say in the project’s development is seen as crucial for gaining broader support and addressing local concerns.
  • Mitigation Measures:
  • Addressing Concerns: Supporters who recognize the validity of some criticisms advocate for mitigation measures. This includes traffic management plans, environmental protections, and programs to support affordable housing and prevent displacement.
  • Transparent Communication: Transparency and regular communication with the public are emphasized as essential. Keeping residents informed and involved can help build trust and ensure that the project meets community needs.

The Rays Stadium project has garnered both strong support and significant opposition. Proponents highlight the potential economic, social, and cultural benefits, while opponents raise valid concerns about financial priorities, equity, and community impact. Balancing these perspectives through careful planning, transparent communication, and community involvement will be crucial for the project’s success and acceptance.

Citations:
[1] https://www.tampabay.com/news/st-petersburg/2024/04/09/st-petersburg-city-council-sets-rays-stadium-discussion-may/
[2] https://stpetecatalyst.com/will-st-pete-help-fund-the-rays-share-of-stadium-costs/
[3] https://baynews9.com/fl/tampa/news/2023/10/26/st–pete-city-council-to-dive-into-details-of-tropicana-field-redevelopment
[4] https://cms5.revize.com/revize/stpete/2024-04-11%20PSI%20Agenda%20Packet_revised.pdf
[5] https://www.fox13news.com/news/st-pete-city-council-to-discuss-rays-new-stadium-proposal-at-thursday-meeting
[7] https://www.wmnf.org/more-details-from-st-pete-city-councils-talk-on-rays-development-plan/
[8] https://baynews9.com/fl/tampa/news/2024/05/10/city-officials-want-more-time-to-digest-redevelopment-details
[9] https://www.wusf.org/politics-issues/2024-05-09/st-petersburg-city-council-first-say-tropicana-field-redevelopment-plans-tampa-bay-rays
[10] https://www.wusf.org/politics-issues/2024-05-08/st-petersburg-city-council-tampa-bay-rays-stadium-tropicana-field-redevelopment

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