Rays brass willing to be stakeholders in Trop site

Team execs answer questions on the plan.

By AARON SHAROCKMAN, Times Staff Writer
Published December 12, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG - Tampa Bay Rays executives may be willing to pump their own money into the potential redevelopment of Tropicana Field, a team official said Tuesday.

How much money, Rays senior vice president Michael Kalt would not say. The team is working with a Houston developer, Hines Interests, on a proposal to redevelop the 86-acre site.

But even the acknowledgement is significant.

The Tropicana redevelopment is the linchpin in the team's plan to build a $450-million stadium on the downtown waterfront. The Rays plan calls for diverting the proceeds from the sale of the land as well as city and county taxes generated from its redevelopment to stadium construction costs.

The team already has pledged up to one-third of the stadium construction cost through $10-million annual rent payments to the city. Possible investment in the Tropicana Field site would increase the Rays' stake in the plan.

"We are very confident that the development on the Trop site can and will be successful, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in new property and sales tax revenue to the city and county that would otherwise not materialize," Kalt stated Tuesday during a live St. Petersburg Times Web chat at tampabay.com. "We anticipate being a part of the investor group."

The team says that combined with a new ballpark on the Al Lang Field site, the Tropicana redevelopment could overhaul 20 percent of downtown and potentially generate up to $300-million for the construction of the new stadium.

After the chat, which also included Rays president Matt Silverman, Kalt said the team still needs to work out details about its involvement in the development proposal.

But, he added, "we think there's some value to us putting our money where our mouth is."

The proposal put forth by Hines and the Rays calls for 900 homes, a new park and 1-million square feet of retail space.

The Rays are not guaranteed they'll get the job.

The city is beginning to solicit offers for the Tropicana Field site. They can choose the Rays/Hines proposal, one from another developer or none. The Rays also need approval from the county and city voters in a public referendum before any work can commence.

During the nearly 90-minute chat, Kalt and Silverman also answered questions about the Ray's financing plan, the stadium design and potential ticket prices.