Will new baseball stadium mean end to St. Pete GP? UPDATE #5 The Tampa Bay Rays will abandon ambitious plans to build a $450 million baseball stadium on the downtown waterfront in four years and instead get more people involved in assessing other locations, the team announced Wednesday.
The team, President Matt Silverman said at a news conference, no longer will seek the St. Petersburg public's vote this November on the open-air, 34,000-seat ballpark that the Rays proposed for the site of Progress Energy Park, home of Al Lang Field.
"While we still believe in the vision we put forth seven months ago, and of its transformational value, we are withdrawing that proposal and we are no longer seeking a November referendum on the waterfront ballpark," Silverman said.
04/06/08 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' with today's announcement.
04/06/08 This rumor is close to being downgraded to 'false.' The City of St. Petersburg, Indy Racing League, American Le Mans Series, Andretti Green Promotions and Honda were "deep into discussions'' Saturday on a new contract that would bring the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg back to downtown streets long term, according a source with close knowledge of the situation. So close was a deal on Saturday that a press conference was tentatively scheduled but ultimately canceled. It is expected that an announcement will be made some time on Sunday before the fourth running of the IndyCar event. Sunday's race is the first in a two-year option exercised last spring. The option concludes the first contract between AGP and the city. TampaBay.com
01/08/08 If the Rays are successful in building a new stadium on the waterfront, the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg could continue to operate in its present site if designers use some "creativity," the event's managing director said Wednesday.
Kevin Savoree, co-owner of race promoter Andretti Green Promotions, said he doesn't think a new stadium - and the relocation of the Salvador Dali Museum onto land used for the competition paddock - threaten the race or mean the course would have to be relocated.
A 1990s downtown St. Petersburg street race ran on a course in the Tropicana Field area. Savoree said moving away from the waterfront with the current race is not an option.
"We wouldn't be interested in being in a dramatically different site," he said. "This race course is recognized worldwide as the premier street race. Why would you want to break that up? This thing gets comparisons to Monaco."
Savoree conceded there would be challenges if the Rays are able to build the 34,000-seat, $450 million stadium they have proposed on the site of Al Lang Field.
For starters, the Bayshore Drive, a prominent feature of the 1.8-mile race course. Stadium plans call for the portion of Bayshore Drive that would run behind the stadium to be rerouted onto new land that would be created by filling 0.6 acres of Tampa Bay.
Bayshore Drive would then run underneath part of the right-field seats, possibly as a pedestrian walkway.
Also, race organizers use a parking lot at Al Lang Field for turns 4, 5 and 6 of the course, some high-end hospitality and the Bright House Family Fun Zone.
"To me, the easier part to resolve is the race circuit," Savoree said. "The harder part to resolve is the footprint. ... It's not a complicated formula. You have a perimeter, and inside that perimeter, you have a footprint. If the Dali takes part of it away and the Rays take part of it away with a baseball stadium, we just have to find ways to gain the footprint back.
"I think with just a little creativity, it's going to fit."
Andretti Green has staged the race the last three years and in May exercised an option with the city to hold it for two more years. This year's event, with features an American Le Mans Series race Saturday and an Indy Racing League IndyCar Series race Sunday, is set for April 4-6.
Savoree said the first "threshold" in determining whether the race goes beyond 2009 is determining whether the space lost to the new Dali Museum can be reclaimed.
"The clearest thing I can say is Andretti Green has a license with the city of St. Petersburg, and it's our intention to do everything possible to have this be a race event in this city for many years to come," he said. TBO.com12/08/07 The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg apparently would fit, with a nip here, a tuck there, into the vision the Rays have for a proposed $450-million, 34,000-seat waterfront ballpark the team hopes to open for the 2012 season.
That appears to be out of coincidence, not conscience, as Andretti Green Promotions, which has staged an Indy Racing League event through downtown streets since 2005, was not consulted on a plan that will at best alter, at worst shut down the race.
“I don’t think they care about our car race,’’ said AGR co-owner Kevin Savoree. “I’m pretty confident they consider the race an inconvenience to their baseball operation.’’ Savoree, who will be in town next week for a sponsor summit, deferred further comment until being presented with a plan for the first time. Rays officials, meanwhile, claim AGP has been consulted almost constantly.
Savoree left open the possibility of moving the race’s typical first-weekend-in-April date to accommodate Major League Baseball opening day and said AGP was committed to the city “if there is still enough site to have a world-class race event. Certainly, we have a great relationship with the City of St. Petersburg. We believe very strongly in that market and we certainly look forward to continuing to promote many years to come … (but) if the city makes a decision that they don’t want us, then that will be end of it.’’
Construction would not begin on the park until 2009, when AGP’s current contract with the city expires. Under current plans, the race course would lose turns 4, 5, and 6 through what is now Al Lang Field’s parking lot, possibly causing a faceoff with residents of Bayfront Tower if the course were to be extended to 1st Street and 1st Ave. That area of the course could possibly be saved - and the situation smoothed - if the Rays adjust what renderings suggest would be a terraced park on what is now the parking lot.
Bayshore Drive, which forms the scenic backdrop of the 1.88-mile course, would move toward the yacht basin in a sixth-tenths of an acre extension of the land on which it rests and still connect the race course at the intersection of Bayshore and 1st Ave Southeast, then at the new Al Lang Way adjacent the Mahaffey Theater. The entry to the so-called “Kink’’ that currently bends left toward Turn 10 would be transformed into a long, gradual S. More at StPeteTimes11/29/07 [Editor's Note: The St. Pete GP course runs right around this area where all the new construction will take place. If it interferes with the track layout too much the city may be forced to axe the St. Pete GP IRL race.]
The Tampa Bay Rays, who have played indoors at Tropicana Field for their first 10 seasons, unveiled plans on Wednesday for a retractable-roof, 34,000-seat, open-air waterfront ballpark that could open as early as 2012.
New Devil Ray's stadium will be built right on the waterfront
The Rays pledged that the $450 million facility, to be located on the site of the historic Al Lang Field Spring Training facility, will require no new taxes or the reallocation of existing taxes, though the complex financing plan must first clear several hurdles, including the transformation of the 85-acre Tropicana Field site into a retail and residential district.
"This is not going to be an easy production," said Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg. "Things that have value in life rarely are easy. They come from hard work and determination. ... The Rays recognize the hard work that is ahead of us."
In a news conference held in the outfield of Al Lang Field, team officials, Florida governor Charlie Crist, and MLB president and chief operating officer Bob DuPuy praised the design of the state-of-the-art ballpark, which will include a unique retractable roof made of a weatherproof fabric that will be pulled along cables suspended between arches on one end and a central mast structure on the other.
"This is one of the most exciting things I've ever seen," said Crist, who owns a condominium that will have an unobstructed view of the outfield.
The ballpark will feature the smallest upper deck in baseball, and a new public park that will link the waterfront park system to the north of the ballpark with the emerging cultural district to its south.