Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Business

St. Petersburg, Tampa chamber chairs agree: Rays have to stay in region

TAMPA — If ever there was a morning to test Tampa and St. Petersburg’s spirit of cross-bay regionalism, it was Friday morning.

The top headline was about a news conference later today where Hillsborough officials expect the Tampa Bay Rays to announce their preference for an Ybor City site for a new baseball stadium.

TAMPA BAY TIMES COVERAGE: THE RAYS PICK YBOR CITY

BREAKING: Stuart Sternberg: Tampa’s Ybor City is top choice for next Rays ballpark

WATCH NOW: Watch today’s news conference with Rays owner Stuart Sternberg

ST. PETERSBURG REACTION: Reaction to Rays news mixed in St. Pete

So when the chairs of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce took the microphone at a breakfast meeting for a joint Q&A, the question was inevitable.

"What can you tell us about the Tampa Bay Rays this morning?" an audience member asked at Café con Tampa, a weekly current event discussion group.

"Anne," Tampa chamber chairman Steven Bernstein said, getting a big laugh, "would you like to take the lead on this?"

"Are you sure we’re still friends?" St. Pete chamber chairwoman Anne Drake McMullen said. "So, yeah, the 800-pound gorilla in the room.

"The answer, of course, is we want the Rays to stay in St. Petersburg," she said. "Absolutely. We want them to stay at Tropicana Field. Unequivocally. If they can’t — if they choose not to — we certainly want them to be in the region. That’s been our position all along. Mayor Kriseman, that’s been his position all around."

Looking ahead, she said, the future is bright, and St. Petersburg has prepared plans to redevelop the area around Tropicana Field whether the Rays stay or move.

"We have 86 acres of prime real estate in the middle of our urban core," she said. "What city has that opportunity? With every challenge comes an opportunity. ... We’re ready to pull the trigger on that and ready to move forward. We want the Rays to stay here. That’s the bottom line. We need them to stay here, stay in our region. They’re good for us all. We’d like them to stay in St. Pete. But as long as they stay here, we’re good with that. We don’t want them to go to Canada or anywhere else."

Bernstein agreed.

"The first priority is to keep them in Tampa Bay," he said. "We’re the Tampa Bay Rays. If the location ends up being in St. Pete, you can bet we’ll be supporting them. ... The reality is if it’s not St. Pete, if it is Tampa, I hope we’ll get behind them as a region. It’s an exciting opportunity."

Stadiums and their financing are controversial, Bernstein said, but "sometimes you have to be outside yourself a little bit and ask yourself, if we never had baseball here, what would we be doing to go out and chase a Major League Baseball franchise? I think most of us, setting aside all the business issues, would rally around that so that we could take our kid to the ballpark or our grandkid and give them that experience. The Rays are part of our identity as a region. Baseball is part of our identity as a region. We are a spring training mecca."

After the breakfast, Bernstein said he hadn’t been told much about the campaign planned by Tampa Bay Rays 2020, a new nonprofit group formed by former Tampa chamber chairmen Ron Christaldi and Chuck Sykes, to build business support for moving the team to Tampa.

BACKGROUND: Meet the middlemen helping to bring the Tampa Bay Rays to Ybor City

But he said he does expect that Major League Baseball will look to Tampa’s business community to demonstrate that it is willing, capable and ready of supporting the team in Tampa.

"And I’m confident that it will," he said.

That said, the future of where the Rays play was not the first thing on the minds of the 50 to 60 civic leaders at Café con Tampa, a nonpartisan, centrist and business-focused group. The first two questions of the morning were about local support for education, the next was about the proposed artwork for the new St. Petersburg Pier and the next was about transportation.

McMullen said St. Petersburg’s proposed bus rapid transit from downtown to the beach is ready, if the city can obtain federal funds to pay for it.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Plan envisions ‘rapid’ bus trips from St. Pete to beaches. But will Trump fund it?

"Once we have one piece of this in place, we can grow the rest of it" and "build on that," she said. "No options come off the table with bus rapid transit. We can always run down the path of light rail. But it also gives us the opportunity to put into place autonomous vehicles, if that’s what ends up happening."

Bernstein said the Tampa chamber’s policy group met yesterday and voted to support bus rapid transit — not as the only solution but as part of a solution.

"We support it because it’s another option," he said. "This is a region that doesn’t have the luxury, in my opinion, of squandering options."

MORE: Go here for more Business News

Contact Richard Danielson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

Comments
TECO prepares to open solar farm in Balm

TECO prepares to open solar farm in Balm

BALM — Tampa Electric will open one of four new solar projects planned for Hillsborough County next month, with a goal of generating enough electricity for 12,000 homes in the area.TECO constructed its Balm Solar project on 548 acres in south Hillsbo...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Is the future of department stores off-price? Macy’s Backstage opens in Tampa

Is the future of department stores off-price? Macy’s Backstage opens in Tampa

TAMPA — Kishia Gainey pushes a blue shopping cart while eyeing a wall of shoes.The mother of four is back-to-school shopping at a Ross Dress for Less in a Citrus Park plaza. She’s already nabbed a pair of D.C. brand sneakers for her teen son that are...
Published: 08/15/18
Dining events: Bolts Brew Fest, Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month

Dining events: Bolts Brew Fest, Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month

BOLTS: BREW FESTI was going to list all the craft brewers whose wares will be on offer at 7 p.m. Friday at this year’s Bolts Brew Fest, a Tampa Bay Lightning benefit for the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. But with 50 local breweries alone, and another ...
Published: 08/15/18
Royal Caribbean will no longer allow emotional support animals on cruises

Royal Caribbean will no longer allow emotional support animals on cruises

In a recent policy change, international cruise line Royal Caribbean has announced it will not allow emotional support animals on its cruise ships effective immediately.The cruise line said emotional support animals, also known as therapy animals, we...
Published: 08/15/18
Tampa ranked third best city in U.S. to retire; St. Petersburg is 23rd

Tampa ranked third best city in U.S. to retire; St. Petersburg is 23rd

Tampa Bay has been named one of the best places for people to retire in the United States, according to a new ranking by credit-monitoring website WalletHub .The financial advice website released its ranking after comparing data collected from more ...
Published: 08/15/18
Retail sales rising at strong clip

Retail sales rising at strong clip

Associated PressWASHINGTON — Americans shopped at a healthy pace in July, buying more cars, clothes and appliances, evidence that confident consumers are helping drive robust economic growth. Retail sales rose at a 0.5 percent annual rate in July, af...
Published: 08/15/18
Girl Scouts announce new gluten free cookie flavor

Girl Scouts announce new gluten free cookie flavor

Move over, Thin Mints — there’s a new cookie in town. And this one is gluten free.Girl Scouts of the USA announced a new flavor Monday. Available during the upcoming 2019 cookie season, Caramel Chocolate Chip "features rich caramel, semi-sweet chocol...
Published: 08/15/18
Tampa General ranked Florida’s second-best hospital in U.S. News study

Tampa General ranked Florida’s second-best hospital in U.S. News study

Tampa General Hospital was ranked as Florida’s second-best hospital in the U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 Hospital Rankings released Tuesday, while Moffitt Cancer Center was named the country’s eighth-best cancer hospital.The rankings, which analy...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/15/18
Wells Fargo to close two Pinellas County banks as part of nationwide closure

Wells Fargo to close two Pinellas County banks as part of nationwide closure

Wells Fargo will close two of its branches in Pinellas County as part of a nationwide closure that reflects a continued shift toward online banking.The two branches — one in Redington Shores and one at the Dunedin Plaza — are the only ones in Tampa B...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/15/18
State Vacuum and ‘Bernie Apestein’ may be waving goodbye to longtime location

State Vacuum and ‘Bernie Apestein’ may be waving goodbye to longtime location

For nearly 40 years, while wearing an eclectic mix of fashion, a mechanical gorilla has stood outside State Vacuum of Tampa, waving hello to Kennedy Boulevard motorists.His name is Bernie Apestein. "That gorilla has been a mainstay" said David Epstei...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/15/18