Tampa Chambers of Commerce Approve Montreal Plan to Divide Rays

Three major Tampa business groups have come forward to support the Tampa Bay Rays’ proposal to split the coming seasons between the Tampa Bay and Montreal stadiums.

The Tampa Bay Chamber, South Tampa Chamber of Commerce and LGBT Tampa Bay Chamber said in a joint announcement Thursday that they supported the idea of ​​a new outdoor baseball stadium “in the area” that would host the Rays for part of each season – as well as full seasons of Tampa Bay Rowdies – describing it as “a viable concept to ensure that baseball remains and thrives in this community for years to come.”

“The rich history of Tampa Bay has been and remains influenced by baseball,” the groups said. “The Chambers recognize this connection and will continue to support efforts to maintain this rich heritage. “

All three organizations are based in Tampa, although the LGBT Chamber represents businesses from seven local counties, including Pinellas.

Bob Rohrlack, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Chamber, said the groups had asked other local chambers and business groups to sign the approval, but some still wanted more details on how the plan. The Chambers have put forward the approval to get him out anyway while the baseball owners get together this week, just so Major League Baseball and the owners know that the Rays plan has the backing of the business community. local.

“I think it just shows that we see the Rays as a regional asset and a key business driver that we all want to work together to keep in the region,” Rohrlack said.

This isn’t the first time that Tampa Bay business leaders have joined forces to try to keep the team in the region. In 2018, a group called the Rays 100 converged to gain support for a new stadium in Tampa, potentially Ybor City. This group’s efforts have been supported by four Hillsborough Chambers of Commerce, including the South Tampa Chamber.

“When they focused on Ybor last time around, we changed our stance from ‘Stay in Tampa Bay’ to ‘We approve of Ybor’ and then when they pulled out of that at the time, we said: “Okay, we just want you to stay in Tampa Bay,” Rohrlack said. “No matter where they are, it impacts all of Tampa Bay.”

Related: The Rays, the mayor and Montreal: the drama of the Saint Petersburg stadium, explained

Speaking at a recent luncheon for the Tiger Bay Club, a local civic group, Tampa Bay Rays president Brian Auld reiterated that a new stadium and a separate season with Montreal was the best chance for Tampa Bay to keep a team in the area.

Lately, discussions about a new stadium have focused on the ownership of Ybor City veterinary entrepreneur and real estate investor Darryl Shaw, including the former headquarters of recruitment and professional services firm Kforce. City leaders have expressed optimism that such a plan could work, even approaching the state about financial aid.

Related: Romano: Rays’ flirtation with Montreal could turn into a real romance this week

Across the bay, closer to Tropicana Field, business leaders from St. Petersburg, including the St. Petersburg Region Chamber of Commerce, have been supporting Montreal’s proposal since early 2020.

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“I’m happy that Tampa is finally backing the plan,” said Chris Steinocher, president and CEO of the St. Petersburg House. “For us, while everyone would love a full season, it was made clear to us over a year ago… that this is what is going to have to happen.”

Steinocher and others wrote a letter to Mayor Rick Kriseman in May urging the city to continue discussions with the Rays over a plan to keep the team in the city.

“In order to focus on the progress ahead, we believe the city and county should continue to continue discussions and actions to keep our hometown team in St. Pete,” the executives wrote. “This is where they belong. “

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