In large American cities, including Tampa-St. Petersburg, commercial real estate development and professional sports often pursue their goals hand in hand. Occasionally, however, the wealthy owners of professional sports franchises differ with commercial real estate developers about how to use land formerly devoted to a ball park or arena. Such a controversy is building in St. Petersburg over the Tropicana Field site now used as the home ball park for the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Devil Rays lease on Tropicana Stadium expires in 2027, and both the fate of the land and the baseball team are in doubt. City leaders are worried that Stuart Sternberg, the owner of the Rays, may wish to move the team to another city after the lease expires, while other interested parties want to ensure that the Tropicana Field site is devoted to a use – most likely housing – that will provide a benefit for the entire city.
Mayor Rick Kriseman has selected to firms to submit final redevelopment proposals for the site of the baseball stadium. Meanwhile, the City Council chair is urging the Mayor to begin negotiations with the baseball team about arrangements to keep the franchise in St. Petersburg.
Not surprisingly, the amount of money potentially involved in redeveloping the Tropicana Field site has spawned a lawsuit. Several minority owners have sued Sternberg seeking a broad swath of relief. The plaintiffs are asking that Sternberg be removed as the president of the group that owns the team and that several pending deals regarding redevelopment of the stadium site be set aside.
What the baseball team wants
For their part, the Rays have submitted a proposal to redevelop the site by building a new stadium and development 36 acres east of Booker Creek. The proposal states that the majority of the revenue from the redevelopment, including the 35 acres of new construction, would belong to the team.
This dispute is far from being resolved. The lawsuit itself could take months to conclude. If the team owners want to move the franchise, they would require approval of the other team owners. Anyone caught up in a redevelopment dispute, whether it is large or small, may wish to retain an experienced real estate attorney for advice and representation as the various proposals move the governmental approval process.