ST. PETERSBURG — Fifteen planning teams are vying to win the contract to re-imagine Tropicana Field with and without a Major League Baseball ballpark.
The firms from as far away as Los Angeles and New York submitted their qualifications by Friday’s deadline for consideration as developers of a master plan for the 85-acre site on the western edge of the city’s downtown.
The plan is intended to show the Tampa Bay Rays how a new ballpark could fit in with retail and residential development. It would serve as a blueprint for future development. If the team stays in the city, it would be entitled to half the development rights.
Firms will also be required to produce an alternative plan without a stadium in case the Rays decide to leave the city.
“The opportunity to develop the acreage of the Tropicana Field site is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expand that sense of place,” Mayor Rick Kriseman said in a news release. “I look forward to reviewing each of these responses and taking the next steps towards the redevelopment of that site.”
Among the applicants are ASD and Rogers Partners, the firms that worked together to design the city’s new pier. Their team also includes AECOM, the firm that produced the city’s downtown waterfront master plan.
HR&A Advisors, a New York firm that produced the master plan for Brooklyn Bridge Park, has partnered with Tampa firm Kimley-Horn and Associates for its bid.
Los Angeles firm CallisonRTKL, whose portfolio includes producing the master plan for a 33-acre urban district south of the Staples Center, is partnering with Lutz firm Sprinkle Consulting.
The master plan was part of the city’s legal agreement with the Rays that lets the team explore potential stadium sites around the Tampa Bay area. The Rays agreed to contribute $100,000 toward the cost and the St. Petersburg City Council has earmarked a matching amount from the city’s budget.
The plan is expected to form part of the city’s Baseball Forever campaign, the city’s effort to convince the Rays that the Trop site is the best location for a new ballpark.
The city is forming a selection committee to review and rank the bids before beginning contract negotiations with the top ranked firm. Work on the master plan is expected to start following approval of a contract by council members possibly in June.
The winning team will face a serious time crunch. The clock began ticking in January on a six-month deadline the Rays agreed to give the city to make a case for the Trop site or even Derby Lane, 10490 Gandy Blvd. N.
Since gaining permission to explore ballpark sites outside the city, Rays officials have met twice with elected and business leaders in Hillsborough County.
St. Petersburg Chief of Staff Kevin King said the city is working toward presenting a plan that includes a stadium in time for the end of the upcoming baseball season.
“Based on our conversations with the team, we do not anticipate them reaching a decision on future stadium locations anytime soon and they are unlikely to announce any such decision during a baseball season,” King said.
The city’s vision for the site is a sustainable, walkable development with a mid-size convention center or exhibit space as an option.
In addition to a stadium footprint, the master plan will also detail where parking would be and how the project would fit into surrounding development. The Rays have indicated they want a site of about 20 acres, which would leave 65 acres for a mixture of residential and retail development.
Firms must also provide a market analysis and detail how the development would fit into surrounding transportation networks and conduct public outreach to get residents’ ideas for the site.
Former city development administrator Rick Mussett has been hired on a part-time basis by Kriseman to spearhead the Baseball Forever campaign.
Mussett was the city’s primary contact during negotiations that brought the Rays to St. Petersburg as an expansion team in 1995. He was also a senior administrator for the city of Bloomington, Minnesota, when the city redeveloped Metropolitan Stadium into the Mall of America, which opened in 1992 as the largest mall in the United States.
“This is to get a creative vision of how the private sector and outside consultants see the opportunity for how the site might develop,” Mussett said.