Could Albert Whitted Airport become Rays’ waterfront home in St. Pete? Ken Welch says it’s still a maybe

Rays stadium
The mayor said baseball isn't driving an economic impact study of the airport, but it could be the result.

St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch on Friday pulled tighter his grip in the tug-of-war over what side of the bay a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays will land on. But he also made sure his feet were planted firmly if he decides to let go.

Welch held an afternoon news conference on the steps of City Hall after an influx of questions over his recently commissioned economic impact study of the Albert Whitted Airport. But he said a waterfront ballpark is only one possibility.

“It’s not, does a Rays’ ballpark go there?” the Mayor said. “It’s what do we do with that 119 acres. And the Rays certainly could be an alternative. It’s really not driving the conversation, but it certainly is an important element.”

Welch said his promise to improve the city’s business processes and bring more equity and inclusive progress to the city is the real driver of the conversation. 

He added it has been too long since the city reevaluated the best use of the public airport.

“When Mayor (Rick) Baker brought this forward, my daughter was a newborn. She’ll be 20 in June,” Welch said. “And I don’t want to see another generation go by without at least having the conversation of what the best use of 119 acres of public property is for the next hundred years.”

Welch said the site could be used for a major league ballpark, but it could also be better suited as a park or left in its current state. That, he said, is what he hopes the study will tell. There is, however, one thing he knows won’t go there. As luxury condos and high rise developments continue to fill the St. Pete skyline, Welch said, that won’t be Albert Whitted’s fate.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the bay, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor still has hopes the Rays’ full-time home will be along the northern edge of Ybor City.

Daniel Figueroa IV

Bronx, NY —> St. Pete, Fla. Just your friendly, neighborhood journo junkie with a penchant for motorcycles and Star Wars. Daniel has spent the last decade covering Tampa Bay and Florida for the Ledger of Lakeland, Tampa Bay Times, and WMNF. You can reach Daniel Figueroa IV at [email protected].


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