Rays announce plans to move to Tampa, but need money


A team of business leaders and local politicians joined Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg for Friday's announcement of the "Tampa Bay Rays 2020" group, whose main goal will be drumming up corporate backing for a project that could cost $800-million or more.

Of St. Petersburg, where the Rays now play at Tropicana Field, Hagan said: "Ticket sales and corporate support have lagged".

Despite deciding on a Tampa address, the Rays still don't know how much money it will take to build the new ballpark.

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"Ybor City is authentically Tampa Bay", Sternberg said.

Tropicana Field has increasingly come to be viewed as an undesirable venue for baseball, and the Rays have consistently ranked near the bottom of the league in attendance, despite occasional success in the standings.

The team has been at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg since its debut in 1998, but the Trop wasn't built as a baseball stadium.

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The 14-acre site is near the downtown's Channel District and is mostly made up of warehouses now. The Rays made due with the stadium, but have been hoping to move for years - with Sternberg even saying he'd have to sell the team if it couldn't find a better stadium.

A deal agreed upon past year allowed the team to search for a new ballpark location through January 2019.

Sternberg did say that numerous same people who designed the never-built waterfront St. Pete stadium are still with the team and would be involved in creating an Ybor proposal.

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Members of the business community were also at the meeting, including Chuck Sykes, CEO, Sykes Enterprises and Ron Christaldi, Partner, Shumaker, Loop and Kendrick. However, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said the process is still "unfolding" to keep the Rays in St. Petersburg. "To give this region - not just St. Pete, but this region - the opportunity to compete to ensure that the Rays stayed in the Bay Area".