ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The Tampa Bay Rays have confirmed plans for a new stadium to replace Tropicana Field, and committed to remain in the area for years to come. The announcement is a major win for Central Florida baseball fans hoping to hang onto the closest Major League Baseball franchise.
The Rays' new stadium will come with a $1.3 billion price tag, part of a massive redevelopment of the area surrounding Tropicana Field. Pending the approval of the St. Petersburg City Council and the Pinellas County Commission, the Rays are set to sign a 30-year lease that begins in 2028.
The decision to stay in the same location the team has occupied since its inaugural season in 1998 came as a surprise to some, as a longtime complaint among Rays fans has been the relatively long drive from downtown Tampa to 'The Trop'.
Beyond that, in late 2021 it became known that Rays owner Stuart Sternberg was considering splitting the team's home schedule between Tampa and Montreal, an unprecedented arrangement for a major American sports team. The idea was not well-received in Tampa, and Major League Baseball ultimately rejected the proposal. Still, Rays fans were now weary that the Rays were looking for a new home.
With those anxieties still fresh, it's no wonder the Rays chose to market the announcement with the slogan, 'Here to Stay'. The team is making a long-term commitment to the Tampa Bay area which gives it room to establish a more concrete identity and tradition in Central Florida.
Also planned for the area around the stadium are 14,000 parking spaces, 4,800 market rate residential units, and 600 living spaces each for workforce and senior housing according to the Tampa Bay Times. Additionally, over 1 million square feet of office space will be constructed as well as extensive hotel and retail space and a small concert venue.
The Rays are slated to open their 2028 season in the new ballpark, leaving four more full seasons at Tropicana Field. The new stadium will be another air-conditioned dome. Funding will be half public and half private, coming out to just over $600 million in taxpayer funds (not including renovations beyond the stadium).
Since their inception in 1998, the Tampa Bay Rays have made the playoffs eight times, winning the division in four of those. They made the World Series in 2008 and 2020 respectively, losing each appearance to the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers respectively.