1. Opinion

Column: New ballpark will keep baseball in Tampa Bay for generations

Ron Christaldi handout
Ron Christaldi handout
Published Feb. 9, 2018

Throughout Tampa Bay we are all fellow citizens of the same community, and it is only through a regional approach that we will succeed. This is a truism in many areas, including our approach to ensuring that the Tampa Bay Rays continue to call this great community of Tampa Bay their home.

Efforts to keep the Rays in the region with a new ballpark have been well documented. From the sail roof proposal along the St. Petersburg waterfront to a retractable roof ballpark in Carillon, there have been no shortage of ideas and attempts to ensure Major League Baseball remains here for generations.

Unfortunately, each proposal met with the same result. Now it is time to look at a Tampa Bay site rich in baseball history and a site that fans from throughout the region could embrace and celebrate as one of the most unique venues in all of Major League Baseball.

A new state-of-the-art ballpark for the Rays in Ybor City would be the capstone in a movement that will complement recent progress and endure for many years. The city of Tampa is undergoing a renaissance as never before seen, and its future is bright. This growth and prosperity has been fostered by community leaders who have vision and courage, knowing it will be transformed.

Therefore, an Ybor ballpark site is the best location to ensure that the Rays will thrive and this region will contribute to grow and prosper.

That is why we have created Tampa Bay Rays 2020, a regional effort that will harness community and business support to show why locating the Rays in Hillsborough County is a win for our region, the state of Florida and the team itself.

Since 1878, generations have relished Tampa Bay's rich baseball history. From the Tampa Smokers in minor league play to the war-time leagues in West Tampa and Ybor, baseball in Tampa Bay runs deep with tradition and affection. And over the years, we have been home to many teams during spring training. Of course, a generation of kids have now grown up with the Rays.

Now is the time to cement this rich history by building a new ballpark.

Ybor City is where the Rays want a new ballpark and for good reason. This location will seamlessly connect vibrant downtown Tampa with historic Ybor, creating an entertainment district that rivals those in major cities across the country.

From Water Street to Channelside to Seventh Avenue, the jobs created will serve as an economic engine. As past chairs of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, we know how important business partnerships are in growing wages for residents and our economy as a whole. A new ballpark will become a worldwide destination and further enhance our reputation as one of the nation's best places to live.

We know a ballpark is a serious commitment, but it is one that is well worth the investment. That is why we are uniting fans and the business community in the Tampa Bay region through Tampa Bay Rays 2020 to show our collective focus and that baseball will thrive. And there is no doubt that this ballpark will create an exciting fan experience like no other.

Famous Tampa Bay baseball legend Al Lopez said, "Do what you love to do and give it your very best. Whether it's business or baseball, or the theater, or any field. If you don't love what you're doing and you can't give it your best, get out of it."

We love Tampa Bay. We love baseball in Tampa Bay. Let's give our best to hit a home run for our community.

Chuck Sykes is the CEO of Sykes Enterprises. Ron Christaldi is a partner at Shumaker, Loop and Kendrick. They are co-founders of Tampa Bay Rays 2020,