St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch announced this morning that he has approved Reyes’ plan to redevelop the St. Petersburg Gas Plant District. Colin Welch of the Tampa Bay Times). The Rays are one of four proposals for the proposed project in partnership with real estate development firm Hines. presented In early December to the office of the mayor of St. Petersburg.

The choice does not indicate a firm commitment between the Rays and the city of St. Petersburg for a new stadium. The organization still needs approval by the City Council for a timetable, and Wright suggests that decision won’t be made until at least the summer. The mayor’s office said choosing the Rays’ proposal over the other three marks a step forward in those negotiations.

Rays team president Brian Auld warned Monday that the team is “absolutely engaged” in negotiations with St. Petersburg, but that they are still in the early stages of the process (link via Mark Tokin of the Tampa Bay Times). Until a timetable is agreed upon, the Rays may continue to explore other long-term stadium options. While Welch expressed hope that the franchise will not do so, Old indicated that the organization “continues to have discussions” with the city of Tampa.

The Rays/Hines proposal extends beyond the construction of a new ballpark. Reyes touted the plan as a project that would include “more than 5,700 multifamily units, 1.4 million square feet of office space, 300,000 square feet of retail, 700 hotel rooms, 600 senior housing units, 2,500 recreational spaces and a variety of public amenities.” Part of the press conference last month. The proposed new stadium would have 30,000 seats on the existing Tropicana Field site. Topkin said the project has an estimated price tag of $1.2 billion and would require agreement on funding from Reiss, the St. Petersburg City Council and Pinellas County — underscoring the challenges that remain in managing the funding in the coming months.

While far from a final score, the mayor’s decision marks some progress toward reaching an agreement on a new stadium plan to keep the Rays in St. Petersburg. The franchise deal at Tropicana Field runs through the 2027 campaign, which obviously adds a sense of urgency to any negotiations involving a massive construction plan for a new venue (and related projects) for the organization. WTSP’s Hannah Dineen. He reports mixed reactions among those in the St. Petersburg community regarding Welch’s decision.

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