TAMPA — Outback Steakhouse parent company Bloomin' Brands is among the latest firms to lend their support to the group pushing to bring the Tampa Bay Rays to Ybor City.
The group Rays 2020 announced Wednesday it now has the backing of 100 business owners and civic leaders willing to serve as ambassadors in an effort to "keep the Rays in Tampa Bay" — by bringing the team to Tampa.
Other new Rays 2020 supporters include Bob Rohrlack, president and chief executive of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, Mark House of the Beck Group and Paul Anderson, chief executive of Port Tampa Bay.
The coalition of supporters, known as the Rays 100, have agreed to raise awareness of the project, seek financial support and appear at speaking engagements.
"It is undeniable that a professional sports team makes a community a more attractive place to live work and play," said Rays 2020 spokeswoman Lisa Brock.
Bloomin' Brands, with some 1,500 restaurants in the United States and around the world, also owns Carrabba's Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill and Fleming's Prime Steakhouse. The company started by opening the first Outback in Tampa in 1988 and is headquartered on West Shore Boulevard.
While Rays 100 members will initially serve as cheerleaders, the ultimate goal is to persuade companies to pledge to buy season tickets and boxes at a new ballpark.
Typically, Major League Baseball teams sell two-thirds of their season tickets to corporate patrons and one third to individual fans. At Tropicana Field, however, that ratio is reversed.
Firms already recruited like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Wells Fargo and Trenam Law may one day pay for corporate boxes. But others on the list like the Ybor City Museum Society, the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida and the Brandon Chamber of Commerce are unlikely to buy season tickets.
The list features few Pinellas companies and is missing some big-name local firms, including Jabil and Mosaic. Mosaic recently announced it is relocating its headquarters from Minnesota to Tampa Bay.
The 100th member of the group was John Tomlin, chief executive of Tomlin St. Cyr Real Estate Services. Tomlin told Rays 2020 he is a baseball fan from a young age.
"The Rays provide the Tampa Bay region with high visibility," Tomlin said in a statement. "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."
Contact Christopher O'Donnell at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.