Fundraising efforts underway to bring Rays to Tampa

- From his office on the 28th floor of the Bank of America building in downtown Tampa, Ron Christaldi can look towards Ybor City and see what's not even there.

"Someday, that may not be an abandoned warehouse. It may be a ballpark," he said during an interview on Monday. "It may be vibrant and there may be jobs there, and there may be people smiling and enjoying a ballgame."

The former chair of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce says "Rays 2020" is tasked with tapping business contacts to prove to the Rays that their days of being last in attendance would be over if they built a new stadium in Tampa.

"We will be focusing on pledges for people to attend the games -- seats, boxes, etc., -- and sponsorships, naming rights of a stadium," he said of their fundraising effort. "We are looking at the next six to 12 months to have those commitments in the door."

On Tuesday, a second group, this one called "Rays 100" will be launched.  It will serve as a secondary ring of ambassadors to find sponsors across the region. 

It's a job made tougher without knowing exactly what the stadium will cost, how much money the Rays will put up, or who will be on the field.

"Certainly if I had Evan Longoria sitting next to me here, that would make my job a little easier," Christaldi said of the recent trades. "You feel a team is part of your family. If one of your family members gets sent to another team, it's disappointing."

How does one sell corporate sponsorships in that environment?

"Hopefully the team they do put on the field will be productive and the fans build that same emotional attachment to them. That's what we will be selling," Christaldi said.

He senses that this is the Tampa Bay area's last shot to keep their ball team.

"Stu Sternberg has assured me Tampa is his focus. He's not interested in moving the team. He would like to be here. I know enough to know that in business, you have to go where it makes business sense for your company. That puts some pressure on us. Absolutely."

Christaldi says the design effort will likely be going on during the fundraising effort, with the hope that in a year we will know if the money is there to build what they've come up with.

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