After years of questions regarding whether or not the Tampa Bay Rays would move across the bay or stay put when its current lease ends in 2027 has come to an agreement made between the team, The City of St. Petersburg, and Pinellas County.

The Rays’ 30-year lease at Tropicana Field ends in 2027.

Local governments and the Rays have struck a deal to build a new, $1.3 billion stadium in St. Petersburg, Florida. It is conceived as a high budget project that goes beyond baseball with a transformational development on the 86-acre Historic Gas Plant District site, according to the Associated Press. The Rays’ co-president Matt Silverman calls the design and structure “a new neighborhood.

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“This will be a transformative project for the Rays, St. Petersburg, and Pinellas County,” Tampa Bay Rays Principal Owner Stu Sternberg said. “We have proudly served as Tampa Bay’s Major League team for 25 years, and we are thrilled to be in position to do so for decades and generations to come.”

The Rays’ partnership with real estate developer Hines on the project embodies a mixed-use development of the district – where the team’s current home Tropicana Field is situated – with more than 6,000 new apartments and condominiums, office space, retail space, a hotel, a Black history museum and more, apart from the new stadium with a capacity of 30,000 fans.

According to plans, the team’s current ballpark will be demolished, and a new structure with air conditioning, an artificial turf field and a pavilion-style fixed roof will be built by Opening Day 2028.

The Rays are bidding to bear more than half of the cost of the $1.3 billion, as well as the budget overrun. The other half is expected to be supplied by Pinellas County and the city of St. Petersburg, each providing around $300 million toward the ballpark.

“I am so excited that the Rays are here to stay. Finally!” said Janet Long, chair of the Pinellas County Commission, who noted this will be the largest economic development project in county history. “This project is a home run and means so much more to us than sports.”

Now, all eyes are on the City Council and County Commission who are going to have a meeting in October to plan funding and the larger projects regarding the new stadium deal, such as the “affordable housing” leg of the program, which is related to mixed-use development of the district. These meetings are expected to continue into next year.

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According to a news report by Forbes, the new Rays stadium will be the first new professional baseball stadium since 2020. Only five new MLB ballparks have been built since 2009: Yankee Stadium in New York City, Target Field in Minnesota, LoanDepot Park in Miami, Truist Park in Atlanta and Globe Life Field, home of the Texas Rangers.

The Rays are known to have been struggling to draw their fans to games for almost ten years, with an average between 13,500 and 19,000 at home games, whereas the league average per home game sees an attendance between 28,000 and 33,000, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

However, the data on Baseball Reference shows an increase in the attendance of the team’s supporters in 2023 compared to last year. While the number of fans attending the games in 2022 was 13,810, it has increased to 17,710 in 2023.

“The Rays are here to stay, and it’s also critical to underscore that this impactful work is much bigger than baseball and extends far beyond the 17-acre ballpark,” St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch said. “We are duty-bound with our intentional efforts to honor the broken promises made to the Historic Gas Plant community, an incredibly special place that my own family called home.”