Public weighs in on Tropicana Field site

- The future of Tropicana Field is now up for discussion.  Monday night, the city of St. Petersburg welcomed the community to share their ideas on what should be done with the site if the Tampa Bay Rays ultimately move the team elsewhere.

Mayor Rick Kriseman has permitted the Rays to shop around for stadium sites, outside of St. Petersburg. That potentially means that in a few years, whether they stay nearby or move somewhere else in Tampa Bay, the 85-acre Trop site could be vacant.

The city is working hard to sway the Rays to stay local while dreaming big about what could go there next.

"We know that we win either way," said Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin. "With a team, without a team, those 85 acres stand to redefine our city and really be the first page of the next chapter of our trajectory."

City officials are asking the community to step up to the plate and tell them what they want to see built.

"People talk about thinking out of the box. I am going to encourage you to think out of the Burg," Tomalin said.

Monday night, more than a hundred people scribbled down ideas, concerns and sketches. People suggested everything from greenspace to living space to a brand new ballpark.

Transportation was a common theme. Tom Nocera pitched the idea of building a station there, for an aerial, solar-powered high-speed rail system he calls "BeachTran."

"For maybe $5 you'd be able to ride the system, come to a game and not worry about parking," Nocera said. "The challenge would be what else is going to be there to bring people to the area when it's not baseball season. That's what I'd like to see people thinking about."

Any one of these ideas could become a reality.  Architecture firm HKS, Inc. is spearheading the design work for the city.

"There is no real set plan. This could be anything," said Randy Morton of architecture firm, HKS, Inc. "Whatever it is, I think at the end, everybody, including us, will be surprised by the result."

For more than two years now, the paintbrushes of Pinot's Palette on Central Avenue have swirled within earshot of the cheers at Tropicana Field. Being situated on the same landscape as a ballpark has its highlights.

"We had a lot of foot traffic that came in and customers asking and actually we had a few people sign up for classes," said owner Christina Thimesch.

If the team moves, nearby businesses have a big interest in what could be moving in next-door. Perhaps, if anyone knows the potential of a blank canvas, it's an artist.

When asked what she'd like to see on the 85 acres, Thimesch said, "I would say some upscale apartments, town homes, along with a green area for a park, a dog park, to do community events, festivals and hopefully, that would bring in more foot traffic for all the local businesses here."

There's another public meeting on this topic Tuesday night at 6:30 at Campbell Park Recreation Center on 14th Street South. The deadline for a master plan is the end of  September. That's when the city wants to present it to the Rays.

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