In a controversial decision Mayor Ken Welch has decided today to not go with the two plans proposed by Midtown and Sugar Hill regarding what to do with the 86 acres of the historic Gas Plant district and Tropicana Field. Stating that he felt more talks needed to be had and more people from the community, the Rays themselves, and businesses around needed to be talked with. With the Rays lease up in 2027 not much is known on what the team would like to do, its proposal for a stadium in Ybor was not approved due to issues with permitting and being too tall for the city of Tampa.
Mayor Ken Welch feels more needs to be done before agreeing to any plan to redevelop 86 acres of the Historic Gas Plant District and the Tropicana Field Property. This decision was due to the changing needs of the community in a post- covid world and dire need for affordable housing in the St. Pete area. He would also like each proposal to include an on site stadium hoping this world urge the Rays to decide if they would like to stay in St. Pete or make a new home in Tampa. Welch mentioned many times he wants the Tampa Bay Rays to be involved in talks and in the process stating “We need certainty on where the Rays want to be on this site and what their vision is.”
His decision to not pick one of the proposed plans was not just about being unsure of what the Rays wanted in a new stadium, but his understanding of what has happened to the historic Gas Plant District and its complicated history. Welch has made it known he wants to redevelop that district into something that everyone can be proud of. Bringing with him a piece of his own family history who use to own a business in the area before it was redevelop into what we have today. This new two-fold plan will not be starting from scratch as some people fear, but building on what has already been done and asking for some new things to be considered. Mayor Welch knows that how the community adapted to the pandemic will greatly effect what can be done on this land.
This decision was met with some controversy as many people worry this will be dragged on even longer, it will cost taxpayers more, and some just want the Rays to figure it out already! The Mayor is extremely optimistic that this delay will be for the best and believes what is a few more months of waiting and planning when we have already waited so long. He asks for us to look at this as a new opportunity to bring players into the fold that couldn’t make it due to fears around the pandemic in 2020 and 2021. When asked about the businesses already in the stadium and their opinions on what is being done he states “I haven’t spoken with them but would like to hear what they have to say”.
By the end of this year we should have a better idea of what will be done with these 86 acres of land and the Tampa Bay Rays as new proposals come in from developers. The city will have many community discussions that if you want a say in what happens you should attend. With the community working together for the greater good I’m sure the new development will be something for the city of St. Pete to be proud of.