ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — St. Petersburg City Council members on Wednesday spoke openly about their concerns and questions regarding a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays and the Gas Plant District redevelopment plan.

The "Committee of the Whole" workshop was held at St. Pete City Hall and lasted for several hours.

What You Need To Know

There was no opportunity for public comment, but the city encouraged anyone who would like to watch the discussion to do so online. During the meeting, city council members reviewed the multiple proposed agreements related to the stadium and Gas Plant District and the city’s financial involvement.

On Thursday, a St. Pete City Council meeting set for 4 p.m. could end with members taking their first official votes on the project. In order to be in favor, five city council members must vote yes. A tie would mean the deal would not move forward as it stands now.

The agreement states the City of St. Pete would contribute $287.5 million towards the new stadium and an additional $142 million for the surrounding infrastructure. The proposal also states the city would agree to sell public land needed for the project at below appraised value.

On Wednesday, City Administrator Robert Gerdes talked about his memories of downtown and how that has changed with the Rays.

"You know, I have been here all my life. I remember what downton was like in the 1980s, I remember what Kenwood was like, I remember what Old North East was like. Now people may say MLB (Major League Baseball) had nothing to do with the renaissance in this city. I'm not so sure about that.”

In addition to the ballpark, the latest plans from the Rays-Hines development team include 5,400 residential units with roughly 1,250 to be designated as affordable or workforce housing. It also includes a $50 million investment from Rays-Hines for a new Woodson African American History Museum, spots for retail, restaurants, conference centers, offices, and an outdoor space for gatherings.

Council member Brandi Gabbard shared her concerns about the project and cited hurricane activity in the area.

"We are a costal community, we see that hurricane season, we have a lot of vulnerabilities around that potential for a major catastrophe to happen in our city," Gabbard said. "And when you are building an asset of this size, you have to look and see how it could correlate to response.”

She added, “I have a lot of concern around verbiage that I am not seeing here in this agreement. Specifically there is a lot of glass on this particular (proposed) building, and can you tell me what category that would be rated?”

Council member Lisset Hanewicz cited feedback from residents.

“We get questions. And I get questions definitely about whether or not it's appropriate to put that much money and whether it's necessary on the public end," Hanewicz said.

During a community meeting Tuesday, St. Pete residents voiced their concerns about the makeup of the current plan. Many who attended the meeting felt the deal wasn’t fair to taxpayers, that more attention needs to be paid to infrastructure, and that the needs of those nearby are getting overlooked.

“I see how this translates into opportunities for business owners, for corporations,” said Brian Peret, president of the Campbell Park Neighborhood Association. “But I don’t see how it translates to small business owners or local individuals or people who make at or below 80% of the AMI and my concern is without significant incentives or requirements to make that happen, it’s not going to happen.”

Mayor Ken Welch openly backs the plan and during the last meeting on the Gas Plant District in May, stated he feels the proposal strikes a good balance for everyone involved.

“Having lived this experience I believe the set of agreements that we have developed with input and extensive community engagement are the key to completing this journey in a manner that’s fiscally responsible, equitable, and honors the promises of jobs and inclusive economic opportunity,” he said.

A formal and final vote on the plan is currently scheduled for July 11. Pinellas County commissioners will have to hold a similar vote on whether to approve their share of the costs. No date has been set for that vote.