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Business Owners Pushing for Rays Ybor City Ballpark

Tampa Bay Rays

Through the group Rays 100, local business executives and civic leaders are looking to build support for a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark in Ybor City

The Rays announced in February that they will pursue a new ballpark in Tampa’s Ybor City neighborhood, focusing specifically on a 14-acre site north of Ybor Channel. Several components will have to fall into place in order for construction of the ballpark to move forward, including funding and community support.

That community support includes the backing of businesses, which would show their support through pledges to enter into partnerships with the team and commit to season tickets. The nonprofit Tampa Bay Rays 2020 has been behind the push to get businesses involved in the effort, and it was at a recent meeting for that group that some members of Rays 100 were revealed. Consisting of local business owners and civic leaders, Rays 100 is expected to work in conjunction with the 2020 group to boost interest in the Ybor City ballpark. More from The Tampa Bay Times:

“It feels real good to look around and see a whole bunch of people with us,” said Sykes Enterprises CEO Chuck Sykes, who founded the 2020 group along with Tampa attorney Ron Christaldi.

Along with promoting the cause within their circles of influence, members of the Rays 100 will work to “actively secure financial support for the Tampa Bay Rays in coordination with the Rays 2020 effort through significant pledges of sponsorships and ticket sales,” Christaldi said.

With the design, size and potential cost of a stadium — half a billion dollars? more? — still to be determined, little is known about prices for ticket packages or suites.

Still, sponsorships are expected to be available at three levels: for naming rights on the ballpark, as founding partners and as corporate partners. Christaldi said there’s been some preliminary discussion on sponsorships, but he did not have price ranges Wednesday.

The effort to replace Tropicana Field has been a long one for the Rays, and there are still several uncertainities surrounding the proposed Ybor City ballpark. A cost estimate has not been pinned down, leaving questions about how the ballpark would be funded and how contributions from the Rays and public sectors will take shape. The willingness of businesses to back the Rays is also a vital component to the plan moving forward, as even Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has called for more business support as well as a ballpark funding deal that allows the Rays to turn a profit.

A Ybor City ballpark would give the Rays a home in Tampa for the first time, as the club has played at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg since it began play in 1998. If plans for the project do move forward, the new ballpark could open in 2022 or 2023.

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