Tampa Bay Rays 2020, the grassroots nonprofit advocating for a new baseball stadium in Tampa, held an invitation-only event on Wednesday in which a list of 75 business and community leaders, that will act as ambassadors on that particular mission, was unveiled under the name The Rays 100.
The core is composed of prominent, influential, and wealthy Tampa leaders and has been described as a “transformational” group by Richard Danielson (Tampa Bay Times).
Tampa Bay Rays 2020, much like Baseball Forever in St. Petersburg, will be the umbrella organization that will attempt to gather support for the team’s possible relocation. The Rays 100 will be one part of that initiative, and will be joined by a smaller advisory group created to function as a steering committee for Tampa Bay Rays 2020 efforts.
The advisory group is expected to include Bob Dutkowsky (Tech Data), Robin DeLaVergne (Tampa General Hospital Foundation), Larry Morgan (Tires Plus) Ken Jones (Third Lake Capital), Richard Gonzmart (Columbia Restaurant Group), and Maryann Ferenc (Mise en Place).
Members of The Rays 100 will also work to “actively secure financial support for the Tampa Bay Rays in coordination with the Rays 2020 effort through significant pledges of sponsorships and ticket sales,” Ronald Christaldi (CEO of Shumaker Advisors Florida) said. …A pledge drive which appears to be modeled after Baseball Forever’s.
Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery
In the latter half of 2016, Baseball Forever announced a campaign which solicited community support by way of non-binding commitments toward:
- Continuing as an existing supporter of the Rays.
- Purchasing a Suite.
- Making the commitment to becoming a Rays sponsor.
- Purchasing a Rays Local Business Partner Package.
- Purchasing season tickets.
Money, however, was not requested. For what it’s worth, Baseball Forever’s pledge drive is still active, and has collected thousands of commitments from both the business community and private citizens alike.
Baseball Forever also neither sought, nor received, funding from the Rays for their grassroots efforts, unlike their cross-bay counterparts.
For its part, Rays 2020 is seeking sponsorships at three different levels: naming rights, founding partners and as corporate partners. However, contrary to a misconception by many, don’t expect the entire funding mechanism to come from Tampa’s official cheerleading squad, or the business community at large.
In other words, to think that hundreds of millions of dollars would come pouring in from the business community for altruistic reasons, and nothing else, is idealistic at best (alternately, highly improbable). Every company expects a return on investment equal to, or greater than, the actual investment.
In reality, Stu Sternberg — largely by way of Brian Auld — has made it known that he is seeking a public investment via subsidies, i.e. taxpayer dollars.
Steve Contorno (Tampa Bay Times) wrote on March 8 that the team has no interest in paying for a stadium on its own, this in spite of a pending $1.2-billion media deal which is expected to take effect next season:
Auld made it clear Thursday that the team cannot pay for a stadium on its own. The debt payments, he said, would hamstring payroll and kill its ability to compete. And besides a government contribution, he said the team also needs the business community to seriously commit to tickets and sponsorships.
It then could be presumed that Sternberg will use both community’s efforts toward data mining in a certain sense:
- The data collected from both communities will give the Rays a better idea of which stadium site — be that Ybor City or the team’s current home — would generate more corporate revenue. How much the team would be willing to invest into stadium construction will depend upon how much money it can get elsewhere.
- The data accrued from both sides of the bay could be used toward increasing the team’s leverage over whichever community is left in the wake come January — when the City of St. Petersburg’s Memorandum of Understanding search window closes.
Ever the astute observer of the Rays Stadium Saga, Noah Pransky (Shadow of the Stadium, 10 Investigates) offered a succinct criticism of the Times’ lead anecdote in Danielson’s story:
…how CEOs like Vincent Cassidy (Majesty Title Services) used to regularly buy and distribute Rays tickets until they started going unused by the handful “about three years ago.”
On one hand, Cassidy says he’d re-invest in the Rays if there was a new product his clients and associates were excited to go to.
But on the other hand, he apparently didn’t have huge trouble giving away tickets to Tropicana Field, all the way on the other side of that enormous bridge, just a few years back.
So did Tropicana Field all of a sudden become unbearable?
Did the Howard Frankland Bridge all of a sudden get longer?
Or did the Rays tarnish their product so much with their self-fulfilling gloom-and-doom prophecy that Tampa Bay residents no longer think its worth their time to visit the stadium? And if that’s the case, are we really just spending $800 million to make the Rays cool again for some unknown period of time?