Rays’ President Tells St. Petersburg Politicians No Name Change

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Jose Siri Homers and Drives in Three as Rays Route Tigers 8-0
(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

St. Petersburg and Pinellas County politicians are spending $600 million to build a stadium-village.

Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays’ president Brian Auld takes the prize for having the most nerve among sports executives. Auld, who is the frontman for the baseball franchise, told members of the St. Petersburg city council that the business wouldn’t take a gift of $600 million in taxpayers’ support from the city and Pinellas County if city politicians insist that the business change its brand name from the Tampa Bay Rays to the St. Petersburg Rays. Auld told St. Petersburg politicians there is no way the team is going to rebrand. “Please understand that within the context of this particular issue, there will not be a new ballpark nor development project if there’s a requirement to change our franchise’s name. We want the Tampa Bay Rays here to stay. Of course, whether we do is ultimately in your hands and the hands of the Board of County Commissioners.”

St. Petersburg officials will put up $287.5 million in tax-exempt bonds to build a new ballpark. Pinellas County will throw $312.5 million into the project with the funding coming from tourism tax. St. Petersburg  City Councilmember Gina Driscoll wants a “fair and open” talk about the Tampa Bay Rays changing their name to the St. Petersburg Rays. Driscoll said she is not pushing Rays’ ownership to change the business’s name, but she thinks St. Petersburg politicians “owe it to our residents” to talk about rebranding the business. Driscoll has asked Mayor Ken Welch to talk to Rays’ ownerships and its stadium-village partner Hines officials and to report to the council on January 4th.  Rays’ ownership has been looking to build a new stadium for years and failed at every turn until Welch put together a stadium-village concept that included hundreds of millions of public funding last summer.

Rays’ President Brian Auld