SPORTS Rays president threatens to reject new stadium deal if...

Rays president threatens to reject new stadium deal if St. Petersburg officials demand name change

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Tampa Bay Rays co-president Brian Auld told the St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday that the franchise will not agree to any ballpark deal that requires the team to change its name. Former St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker had previously suggested the city stipulate that the Rays swap out “Tampa Bay” for “St. Petersburg” in exchange for land development rights and an estimated $600 million in public financing that will be used to build a new ballpark.

“Within the context of this particular issue, there will not be a new ballpark nor a development project if there’s a requirement to change our franchise’s name.” Auld said. According to WUSF, he added:  “… The name of the team is the Tampa Bay Rays, and it’s going to remain the Tampa Bay Rays.”

Auld’s name is familiar to anyone who has followed the stadium saga for the long haul. Back in 2021, he told the Wall Street Journal, as part of the the Rays’ ridiculous efforts to split the season between Tampa Bay and Montreal, that the team had “concluded that it’s next to impossible that full-season baseball can succeed in Tampa Bay today.” The Rays are now willing to commit to playing full-season baseball in Tampa Bay — provided they get everything they want without giving up anything they don’t, including, evidently, altering the team’s name.

Tampa Bay, of course, changed the franchise’s name, from “Devil Rays” to just “Rays,” ahead of the 2008 season.

Auld’s argument, which referenced Tampa Bay’s other professional sports franchises, was that the name was too ingrained and too important to change. He added that the team has tentative plans to wear a “St. Pete” uniform for “at least one game” — though he was quick to note that “complications with Major League Baseball’s arrangements with people like Nike” prevent them from getting that “commitment set in stone right now.”

“The Lightning and the Buccaneers recognize this, too,” Auld said. “It’s absolutely vital to what we do. And we want to make sure that this entire project screams inclusive welcomeness to everyone, and Tampa Bay is the best way for us to do that.”

It’s worth noting that the Rays’ jerseys do not and have not featured “Tampa Bay” since the “Rays” rebrand.

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