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Business Observer Friday, Jun. 8, 2018 5 months ago

Batter up: Business community rallies around Rays

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Dozens of leaders formed a group to back the team's bid to move to Tampa.

Some of the heaviest hitters in the Tampa Bay business community have lined up to support the Tampa Rays’ proposed move to a site in Ybor City. Tampa Bay Rays 2020, an advocacy group founded by Chuck Sykes of Sykes Enterprises and Ronald Christaldi of law firm Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, has formed a subgroup dubbed Rays 100 that’s made up of dozens of high-profile business leaders in the region.

The Rays 100 includes Cathie Koch, vice president of Bloomin’ Brands Inc.; Jim Kirkpatrick, vice president of Republic Bank; Corey Neil, Bank of Tampa’s Hillsborough market president; Craig Richard, president and CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp.; Jim Weiss, Fifth Third Bank’s Tampa city president; Chad Loar, president of PNC Bank’s Florida West region; and David Weinstein, managing shareholder of Greenberg Traurig.

According to a press release, members of the Rays 100 will serve as ambassadors for Tampa Bay Rays 2020, where the ultimate goal is to keep the Rays in Tampa Bay. The group, the release states, is working to build private equity support for Rays owner Stuart Sternberg’s plan to build a new stadium for the team on a 14-acre site in Ybor City.

They have a tough road. According to some estimates, a new stadium could cost as much as $800 million. Sternberg, meanwhile, has gone on record saying the team would be able to kick in only $150 million toward the project.

John Tomlin, CEO of Tomlin St. Cyr Real Estate Services, recently became the 100th member of the Rays 100. He states in the release that civic responsibility is what motivated him to get involved with the organization, and that losing the Rays to another metro area would be a huge negative for the region and its reputation. 

“The Rays provide the Tampa Bay region with high visibility,” Tomlin states. “They instill a sense of pride in the community that far exceeds a love of baseball. They add credibility to the notion that Tampa is a leading place to live.”

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