Report: Renovating "The Trop" too expensive

3:26 PM, Jun 16, 2009   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, FL - The Rays say they need a new stadium with wider concourses, better seats and a more appealing roof.  Now, they've got some evidence that Tropicana Field may not be a suitable long-term home.

World-renowned stadium-builder Populous (formerly HOK) released a report Monday that estimated the cost of renovating Tropicana Field to modern stadium standards at $430 million.  That includes wider concourses, better sightlines, wider seats and a retractable roof.  They estimated the cost of a brand-new ballpark at $470 million.

Populous made the presentation to "A Baseball Community" ("ABC"), an independent commission looking at the best way to keep baseball in Tampa Bay.  The Rays' stadium lease runs into the 2020's, but some believe they could leave the area when the bonds on their stadium are paid off as soon as 2014.

"It is always a bit of a surprise - the cost of renovating an existing structure," said Jeff Lyash, CEO of Progress Energy and Chair of the ABC group.  "I think that puts us - and the public - in a better position to understand the cost of keeping Tropicana Field and for what benefit."

The report - commissioned by the Rays, who are lobbying for a new home - also suggested that Tropicana Field may start to rack up costly repair bills sometime next decade.  Joe Spear, Senior Principal at Populous, said dome membranes have a general lifespan of 30 years.  Tropicana Field was built in the late 80's.

"You'd be better served, if you want a top-notch facility, to build a new park," said Spear.

"Restaurants," Spear used as a comparison. "They do everything they can to make sure you have a wonderful experience in that restaurant. The baseball game - more and more - is like that. The setting, the presentation of the game, is crucial."

The Rays say, in addition to the stadium experience, location is important to fans, but that topic won't be approached until a July ABC meeting.

Noah Pransky, 10 Connects

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