Business Leaders Begin Push For A Rays Stadium In Ybor

Mar 30, 2018

The campaign to rally local support for an Ybor City baseball stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays is gearing up.

Chuck Sykes of Sykes Enterprises and lawyer Ron Christaldi said 100 local civic and business leaders have already signed on to support a Rays stadium in Ybor. Sykes and Christaldi are in charge of Tampa Bay Rays 2020, an organization focused on drumming up community support for the stadium move.

Sykes told the civic group Cafe Con Tampa on Friday that he will start reaching out to the area's largest corporations in April and he's not limiting his search to just Hillsborough County.

"Companies have a tendency to think more in the context of the Tampa Bay region, because their employees are from the region," he said. "They don't necessarily think just parochially about their neighborhood."

Keeping the support of Pinellas County-based businesses that currently back the Rays will be a priority of the new campaign, Sykes said.

Tampa Bay Rays 2020 will seek commitments to buy season tickets and corporate boxes. Sykes said most Major League Baseball teams get about two-thirds of their ticket sales from corporate customers.

"If we want the Rays to really be able to afford to pay for something of this magnitude, they've got to see confidence," he said.

Though an Ybor City stadium would have less seats than the current stadium in St. Petersburg, Sykes expects more people would attend the games after the move. He said the proposed 14-acre site in Ybor has more than 1.6 million people within a 30-minute drive compared to more than 600,000 in St. Petersburg.

Asked about the potential displacement of low-income residents near the proposed stadium site, Christaldi, whose law firm is an underwriter of WUSF Public Media, said the site was specifically chosen because it does not include any residential area.

"This is part of us coming together and having open and honest dialogue, so if there are any folks who might be displaced then they need to be part of the dialogue," he said.

Sykes acknowledged new development around the stadium might price some residents out of their homes.

Exactly how much a new stadium would cost is unclear, but Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the price tag could reach $800 million.