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Rays will not change name, team president says

“The name of the team is the Tampa Bay Rays,” Brian Auld said Thursday. “It’s going to remain the Tampa Bay Rays.”
 
Rays president Brian Auld, right, and president Matt Silverman, second from right, at Tropicana Field in September. Auld said Thursday that the team will not change its name to the St. Petersburg Rays, despite recent discourse around the subject.
Rays president Brian Auld, right, and president Matt Silverman, second from right, at Tropicana Field in September. Auld said Thursday that the team will not change its name to the St. Petersburg Rays, despite recent discourse around the subject. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published Dec. 7, 2023|Updated Dec. 7, 2023

CLEARWATER — The Tampa Bay Rays will not change their name, team president Brian Auld said Thursday.

Auld’s comment came during a Pinellas County Commission work session at which the team, developer Hines and St. Petersburg city officials gave updates about plans for a new stadium and surrounding development. It follows weeks of discussion by the public and elected officials, past and present.

“The name of the team is the Tampa Bay Rays,” he said. “It’s going to remain the Tampa Bay Rays.”

Auld’s comments — prompted by a question from Commissioner Dave Eggers — marked the first public word from the Rays since the news that the City Council will discuss the name-change question next week. Auld previously shot down the name-change idea at a Nov. 29 luncheon hosted by the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership.

“Serious people recognize that putting this entire project at risk over a 25-year-old name of our organization is probably not something worth doing,” he said then, according to a report from the St. Pete Catalyst.

Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker wrote in a column for the Tampa Bay Times last month that the team should change its name to the St. Petersburg Rays as a condition of the stadium deal, which the city and county still have to approve. Baker also pitched his idea to St. Petersburg City Council members, the Times later reported, and the council will vote next week on the name-change question at the behest of council member Gina Driscoll.

Reactions from public officials have been mixed. Some, on both the City Council and County Commission, have called it an intriguing idea. Others have been a forceful “no,” including Commissioner Janet Long, who said last week that she wouldn’t be in favor of a name change “unless they don’t want the money from the county.” Pinellas would put more than $300 million in tourist-tax dollars toward a new stadium under the terms of the proposed deal.

Auld said Thursday that the Rays will stay under the Tampa Bay banner “for the same reason the St. Petersburg Times changed its name to the Tampa Bay Times. We’ve got to draw fans from across the region.”

St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch and Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, Pinellas County’s tourism agency, have pushed the Rays to do a better job of making sure people understand that the team is based in St. Petersburg — not Tampa — Auld said. He cited a St. Petersburg-centric uniform, which the team has committed to wearing in at least one game, as an example of how it can do that.

In a column published by the Times on Tuesday, Welch voiced his support for keeping the name unchanged.

“I’m confident in St. Pete’s special vibe and appeal as a unique and special part of our Tampa Bay community,” he wrote. “But we are strongest as a region, and I proudly embrace our regional neighbors and look forward to welcoming them to St. Petersburg for upcoming Rays games.”

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Later on Thursday, the City Council voted 7-1, with Richie Floyd voting no, to pay another $1.2 million to Inner Circle Sports, the consultant for the city and county on stadium matters. The county will cover half that amount, should commissioners approve an interlocal agreement Tuesday.

The City Council deferred a vote on the expense last week, largely because council members had questions about the creation of a third-party entity that will oversee stadium construction and operations.