‘Tip of the Iceberg’: Tampa corporate support for Rays? So far, it’s $160 million over 10 years

Rays 2020 co-founder Ron Christaldi announced $16 million in corporate pledges so far in quest for Tampa Bay Rays Ybor City ballpark on Nov. 16, 2018.  (Photo credit: Charlie Frago)
Rays 2020 co-founder Ron Christaldi announced $16 million in corporate pledges so far in quest for Tampa Bay Rays Ybor City ballpark on Nov. 16, 2018. (Photo credit: Charlie Frago)
Published November 16
Updated November 23

Tampa Bay Rays 2020 co-founder Ron Christaldi put some details Friday behind his confidence that the Tampa Bay Rays will get a new home in Ybor City — $16 million of them, each year for the next decade.

The $160 million is the amount of new corporate support pledged for a ball park north of Adamo Drive in the Latin district, Christaldi said at a meeting held in the J.C Newman Cigar Co., an historic Ybor-area cigar factory.

"That's just the tip of the iceberg," said Christaldi, who said his group hasn't reached out to many possible sources of private money.

Christaldi also touted the new federal Opportunity Zone covering the proposed ballpark as a possible source of much of the private funding, though he wouldn't say how much the tax-credit mechanism would provide. Since the Ybor site was announced in February, Rays owner Stu Sternberg has proposed different amounts for the team's contribution toward the estimated $892 million cost.

Earlier in the week, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told the Tampa Bay Times that he thought the zone would play a significant role in any financing package.

"This is only a value-add to those discussions," Buckhorn said.

At the meeting, Christaldi released a poll done by the Tarrance Group, an Alexandria, V.A. polling company that recently asked 500 Hillsborough residents if they support the Rays' plan to relocate across Tampa Bay in time for the opening pitch in 2023. Seventy percent said yes, though they weren't asked about public financing. The margin of error was 4.5 percent.

Although he sounded notes of optimism throughout the hour-long presentation, Christaldi emphasized that Tampa's window of opportunity won't last forever.

"Timing is of the essence," he said.

Notably absent from the meeting was Chuck Sykes, the Tampa business magnate who is co-heading the group. Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan and Buckhorn didn't show up, either.

Hagan didn't respond to a request for comment.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has played his political cards close to his vest on what he may ask the team to do if they miss the Dec. 31 deadline outlined in an agreement between the Sunshine City and the Rays. The agreement leaves no wiggle room for any missed deadlines.

Christaldi also announced five subcommittees to help push forward the plan to bring the Rays to Tampa. A deadline on the team's agreement with St. Petersburg to look in Hillsborough expires just before the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve.

The military, hospitality, legal and development communities are now represented by organized structures, as are professional athletes, headed by a former minor league player for the New York Yankees, Carlton Fleming.

Other committee leaders include Chip Diehl, the former commander at MacDill Air Force Base, Eric Page, a partner at the Shutts and Bowen law firm, attorney John Dicks, Jim Sullivan, vice president of Scratch Concepts, Katie Gower, business development director at Ed Taylor Construction and Jeff Cathey, senior military affairs executive at Bank of America.

Editor's Note: In an earlier version of this story, the total amount pledged by corporations for premium seating and sponsorships was incorrect. The story has been amended.

Contact Charlie Frago at [email protected] or (727)-893-8459. Follow @CharlieFrago.

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