One of MLB’s longest-running stadium sagas has seemingly come to an end.
The Tampa Bay Rays announced Tuesday that the team has reached an agreement with the city of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County, Fla. to build a brand new stadium that would replace the quirky, cavernous (and often empty) Tropicana Field.
“I am incredibly excited. This is a big, meaningful and really positive development,” team president Brian Auld said via MLB.com. “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 new stadium, which is expected to be open for the 2028 season, will be built near the site of the Trop in downtown St. Petersburg as part of the redevelopment of the 86-acre Historic Gas Plant District. The field will be artificial turf and it will have a fixed dome roof with windows. Capacity is expected to be 30,000, around the same as the Oakland Athletics’ new stadium in Las Vegas. From documents examined by Mark Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, it’s estimated to cost $1.2 billion.
Rays managing partner Stu Sternberg told the Tampa Bay Times on Sept. 8 that the team is willing to pay “half or more” of the cost of the stadium, with the city of Tampa and Pinellas County on the hook for the rest. Sternberg said that the Rays will pay for their half by selling shares in the team, and is already discussing those plans with potential investors.
Tropicana Field is considered to be one of the worst parks in MLB. It’s domed but without windows, and the metal bars used to hold up the roof get in the way of balls in play. It’s an echoey cavern where home runs go to die, built in 1990 to lure a MLB team to the area. It’s been a problem for the Rays ever since they moved in, and they’ve been trying to leave it since 2007 — only nine years after they became a team and started using it. Leaving the stadium became a more urgent issue recently as time ticked down on the Rays’ lease with St. Petersburg, which runs out in 2027.