Officials think graves might be hidden under an MLB field's parking lots

Tropicana Field is home to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Three possible graves have been found under a pair of parking lots adjacent to Tropicana Field, the home of Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays, officials announced Friday.

A contractor hired by the city of St. Petersburg, Fla. located the possible burial sites beneath lots 1 and 2 outside the ballpark, near a highway overpass, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The lots, though not Tropicana Field itself, are built on the former site of Oaklawn Cemetery, which housed the remains of black people and white people in segregated sections.

"While the number of potential graves discovered is small, it is not insignificant," St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said in a statement. "Every person has value and no one should be forgotten. This process is of the utmost importance and we will continue to do right by these souls and all who loved them as we move forward."

The city, which is seeking to redevelop the land around the ballpark, hired the Riverview-based company Cardno earlier this year to search for potential gravesites, using ground-penetrating radar work. 

Cardno said other "areas of interest" were also found just south of the lots, on the site of two additional cemeteries: the Evergreen Cemetery, serving black residents, and the Moffett Cemetery, serving people of all racial backgrounds, the newspaper reported.

All three cemeteries were later closed and hundreds of bodies were exhumed and reburied elsewhere. However, the report said that longtime residents raised concern about the possibility that more graves would be found when the city initially paved the lots more than three decades ago.

Tropicana Field was built in 1990 as part of an effort for the city of St. Petersburg to land an MLB team, which eventually proved successful as the Rays began play in 1998.

The floated redevelopment has caused tension between the city and the team, with Kriseman recently declaring he would not negotiate with the Rays over a new stadium as long as Principal owner Stuart Sternberg remains in charge.