USF wants say in redevelopment plans of Tropicana Field

Interim President Rhea Law and St. Pete Chancellor Martin Tadlock expressed in a letter to St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman interest in being a part of future conversations about development plans for the 86-acre site. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/ERIC KILBY

The university is making sure its input on the fate of the redevelopment plans of Tropicana Field doesn’t go unnoticed by requesting active participation in future discussions.

In a letter sent to St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman on Sept. 30, Interim President Rhea Law and St. Pete Chancellor Martin Tadlock stated the university’s interest in being part of the conversations regarding future redevelopments of Tropicana Field. The focus was on promoting partnerships that could “result in developing facilities and programs for education, research and innovation.”

“The concept of a tech campus as part of the development of the Tropicana Site is a major opportunity for our university,” the letter stated. “We are committed to working closely with the city of St. Petersburg and the selected developer in the fulfillment of these major economic opportunities.”

The letter stated that the university was drawn to the discussions due to the potential impacts in workforce development, higher education, medical research and innovation. While additional details about the site’s development are still in the initial stages, the letter stated USF requests “additional time” to participate in those discussions regarding the future of Tropicana Field.

The future redevelopment plans for Tropicana Field have been a topic of conversation as the Tampa Bay Rays’ lease is set to end in 2027. With less than a month left in office, Kriseman plans to have a master developer selected before November, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

In the original timeline, however, he was set to choose a development partner by May or June. The finalists were only announced in March, and since then, discussions have been in place to decide the site’s fate and the final developer that will take on the task.

Contrary to Kriseman’s plans, the St. Petersburg City Council stated it wouldn’t commit to any final redevelopment proposals until the Rays elaborated on their proposed two-city plan with Montreal, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Two finalists have been selected to propose plans to redevelop the 86-acre site — real estate firms Midtown Development and Sugar Hill Community Partners, led by JMA Ventures. Kriseman encouraged developers to submit proposals even without a stadium in mind, opening the doors for potential developments of office spaces, homes and a hotel.

Tadlock said the university’s participation in the conversations reaffirmed its commitment toward research and innovation across the Tampa Bay area.

“The letter is an affirmation that we want to be at the table with whomever is determined to be the developer of the Tropicana Field site,” Tadlock said in an email to The Oracle. “The University of South Florida is a premier public research institution, and we have much to offer in terms of workforce development and research and innovation.

“We think it’s appropriate that USF is a part of this exciting conversation, and our participation reflects the strong relationship our university has with the city of St. Petersburg and the surrounding region.”