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Rick Kriseman plans to build new baseball stadium at Walter Fuller Park

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman announced plans to expand one of the baseball fields at Walter Fuller Park into a small stadium used for International Baseball games and college games.

The new stadium is intended to attract increased baseball-related events to the area.

“We believe that quality international and college baseball can serve as an economic driver for West St. Petersburg,” Kriseman said.

Kriseman plans to ask the county’s Tourist Development Council to fund the project using existing bed tax dollars paid by people staying in hotels and motels within the county.

Though the targeted funding would come from the TDC, Kriseman said the city doesn’t know yet how much the facility would cost.

It would upgrade the current field on the northeast side of the park with bleacher seating for 1,800 – some of it covered. The project would add fan hospitality areas with tables and umbrellas, concession stands, a festival seating area, a children’s activity area, air-conditioned press box, built in dugouts, new bullpens outside of the playing area, a front entry facade and welcome plaza and a new public address system and digital scoreboard.

The new facility would benefit the Rays. Some of the players from an international baseball team from Puerto Rico are on the Rays’ watch list as potential future players. However, the Rays have not committed to helping fund the new stadium.

“We haven’t asked them to do anything related to this field,” Kriseman said.

The Rays will host the final game of the St. Petersburg International Baseball Series at Tropicana Field. The Canadian team will play the Rays in an exhibition game on Sunday, March 22.

The announcement comes as the Rays and Kriseman continue to negotiate a new agreement to allow the Major League Baseball team to look for new stadium sites outside the city in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

A previous Memorandum of Understanding between the Rays and the city was rejected by City Council amid concerns surrounding development rights of the Tropicana Field site should the Rays opt to move before its contract is up in 2027.

Kriseman said those negotiations are still ongoing, but he remains hopeful a deal could be struck and approved by City Council before the Rays’ Opening Day in early April.

“It’s kind of in council’s hands,” Kriseman said.

Kriseman did not say whether negotiations would continue into the baseball season if a deal isn’t reached in time or whether further negotiations would have to wait until the next off-season.

Rays President Brian Auld was at the press conference Wednesday, but did not weigh in on the negotiations with the city.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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