Make us your home page

Tampa and St. Petersburg join forces to explore new stadium for Tampa Bay Rays

When it comes to baseball, relationships between Tampa and St. Petersburg have often been frosty, if not downright hostile.

Now business leaders from both sides of the bay have joined forces to try to get a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays.

They plan to study the economic impact of baseball, team income and expenses, and possible sources of stadium financing — both public and private.

The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, led by Chuck Sykes, came up with the idea in November, saying it wanted to draw Pinellas business interests into the project as well.

In May, the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce came on board, with what the two groups are now calling the Baseball Stadium Financing Caucus.

Sykes and Progress Energy executive Mark Wimberly, who heads the St. Petersburg chamber, will lead as caucus co-chairmen.

"Keeping Major League Baseball in the community over the long haul is our key objective. There is a risk we could lose them," Wimberly said Thursday. "I don't believe there is a great deal of information out in the public or understanding by the public. We are helping the business climate, and we are educating the public. That's why we are doing it."

The caucus hopes to issue a white paper by year's end, but might extend that deadline, Wimberly said, "if that's what it takes to get it right."

For now, the group is steering clear of any discussions about the stadium location, which is the sticking point in an ongoing stalemate between the Rays and the city of St. Petersburg.

Mayor Bill Foster has said he will discuss new stadium possibilities before the Tropicana Field contract expires in 2027 — but only for locations in or near St. Petersburg.

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg has said he will not discuss Pinellas locations unless the team also can explore possibilities in Hillsborough County.

"Our community does not have the readiness level to deal with the location issue," Sykes said. "But everyone is going to benefit from what we learn about financing. Let's hope we find some possible solutions, and that may drive us down the road toward location."

Neither Sykes nor Wimberly would pinpoint when they thought a new stadium should come out of the ground.

"Sternberg has said publicly that he doesn't want to wait five years," Sykes said. "The question is whether you believe that or not. I don't know if five years is the answer, but I don't think we have until 2027."

The group already has discussed baseball finance with the Rays and expects to continue, Sykes said. Because the Rays will have to contribute part of the stadium cost, he said, the caucus wants to understand the interplay between attendance-driven revenues, TV and radio income, revenue sharing and other income.

The caucus also wants to explore tradeoffs between stadium styles and revenue. How big must it be? Will foregoing a retractable roof save enough on construction costs to make up losing fans who won't brave heat, rain and lightning?

The caucus will explore possibilities for regional financing, though neither Sykes nor Wimberly elaborated.

"I only have questions right now," Sykes said. "We are going to have to look at these things."

The city and Rays are at loggerheads. Attendance at the Trop has been disappointing at best. And given the economy, neither taxpayers nor politicians have much enthusiasm for a new stadium.

But both men said they were confident that the Rays will stay in Tampa Bay and a stadium will be built eventually.

"I don't think the Rays want to leave the area," Wimberly said. "I really believe the community will come together and we will figure out a solution that suits all parties."

Baseball Stadium Financing Caucus

Chuck Sykes, president and CEO of Sykes Enterprises
Bob Rohrlack, president and CEO of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce
John H. Hill, Jr., senior managing director of Hyde Park Capital Partners
Sandra W. Callahan, senior vice president and chief financial officer of TECO Energy
Dan LeClair, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer of AACSB International
David Mallitz, executive vice president and CFO of DeBartolo Holdings
Mark Wimberly, south coastal vice president of Progress Energy Florida
Chris Steinocher, president and CEO of St. Pete Chamber of Commerce
Arnie Stenberg, executive vice president and chief administrative officer of All Children's Hospital
Jeff Hearn, senior vice president of investments of Raymond James and Associates
David Punzak, attorney at Carlton Fields
Sidney W. Morgan, chief operating officer at JSA Healthcare
Brian Lamb, senior vice president at Fifth Third Bank

Source: Chuck Sykes

Tampa and St. Petersburg join forces to explore new stadium for Tampa Bay Rays 06/23/11 [Last modified: Friday, June 24, 2011 11:29am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. After Irma topples tree, home sale may be gone with the wind

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — To house hunters searching online, the home for sale in St. Petersburg's Shore Acres neighborhood couldn't have looked more appealing — fully renovated and shaded by the leafy canopy of a magnificent ficus benjamini tree.

    Hurricane Irma's winds recently blew over a large ficus tree, left, in the yard of a home at 3601Alabama Ave NE, right, in Shore Acres which is owned by Brett Schroder who is trying to sell the house.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  2. Unemployment claims double in Florida after Hurricane Irma


    The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped by 23,000 last week to 259,000 as the economic impact of Hurricane Harvey began to fade.

    Homes destroyed by Hurricane Irma on Big Pine Key last week. Hurricane Irma continued to have an impact on the job market in Florida, where unemployment claims more than doubled from the previous week.
[The New York Times file photo]
  3. Calling it a 'dangerous precedent,' Tampa chamber opposes city tax increase


    TAMPA — Calling the possibility a "dangerous precedent," the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce on Thursday took the rare step of opposing City Hall's proposal to raise Tampa's property tax rate because of its impact on business.

    The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce voted against supporting a city tax hike on commercial property. Pictured is Bob Rohrlack, CEO of the chamber. | [Times file photo]
  4. Did Hurricane Irma speed the end of Florida orange juice?


    Hurricane Irma plundered Florida's orange belt, leaving a trail of uprooted trees, downed fruit and flooded groves worse than anything growers say they have seen in more than 20 years.

    A large number of oranges lie on the ground at the Story Grove orange grove in the wake of Hurricane Irma on Sept. 13, 2017, in Lake Wales. [Photo by Brian Blanco | Getty Images]
  5. St. Petersburg's newest hotel opens with craft beers, cocktails and Cozy Corners

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Last spring, Ryan Tarrant applied for a job with the new Hyatt Place nearing completion in downtown St. Petersburg. Among the questions an interviewer asked:

    What does this hotel need to succeed?

    Hybar, a bar area with outdoor seating  that will feature craft drinks and Sunday brunch starting Oct. 1, is ready to open at the new Hyatt Place hotel at  25 2nd St. N in downtown St. Petersburg. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]