A cigar bar is being pitched as an amenity for a proposed new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark, as the idea is being floated by J.C. Newman Cigar Co.
Since the Rays (then Devil Rays) began play there in 1998, Tropicana Field has always featured the Cuesta-Rey Cigar Bar in centerfield. That space–the product of an agreement between the franchise and J.C. Newman Cigar Co.–will be used for a different purpose beginning with the 2018 season, but J.C. Newman Cigar Co. president Eric Newman says that the company wants to be involved in a proposed Ybor City ballpark for the Rays.
Ybor City is a historic neighborhood that was once home to Tampa’s cigar industry, and J.C. Newman Cigar Co. is based about a mile from the site where the ballpark could be constructed. Whether a cigar bar would actually be included in the new ballpark remains to be seen, but the company is expressing interest in the plan as the Rays and ballpark backers look to continue to boost corporate support for the proposal. More from TBO.com:
Losing the space at the Trop came as a surprise, Newman said, “but I put the disappointment behind me, and I’m looking forward to having a presence in the new stadium.”
Newman said he’s talked with Rays president Matt Silverman about having a cigar bar in any new Ybor City stadium. He also has taken steps to get involved with the nonprofit group Tampa Bay Rays 2020.
Founded by Tampa attorney Ron Christaldi and Sykes Enterprises CEO Chuck Sykes, the group has said it plans to announce, perhaps as soon as this week, the creation of a core group of businesses known as the Rays 100 to work on increasing season ticket sales, suite bookings and sponsorships at a Tampa ballpark.
“A lot of details need to be worked out between now and the first pitch on opening day,” Christaldi said. “The focus of the Tampa Bay Rays 2020 effort is to galvanize the support of the business community, to show the Tampa Bay Rays that we can fill up the stadium with fans here in Tampa Bay and to make the Rays’ long-term home in Tampa Bay for generations.”
Earlier this month, the Rays announced that they would pursue the Ybor City site–located at a 14-acre site north of Ybor Channel–for a new ballpark. While this move would give the team a Tampa ballpark in an urban setting, funding the proposed venue remains a major variable to the plan moving forward. There have been calls for the business community to show its support for the Rays, and the team is reportedly working to generate more revenue by strengthening its television deal (though those terms have not been finalized).
If a plan to build a new ballpark does move forward, the Rays would move from Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. The earliest a new ballpark will open is for the 2022 or 2023 season.