Rays 2020 forms committee to bring baseball to Tampa

The Tampa Bay Rays' desired move to Ybor City took another step toward becoming a reality, the group Rays 2020 said during a Friday news conference.

Ron Christaldi, who is in charge of the group that is trying to bring the Rays to Tampa, announced five committees are forming that will target different segments of the community.

"This is about the tremendous growth and momentum of business community support for the Rays here," Christaldi said. "[The committees] are going to be educating folks on things, raising money, bringing in more corporate support."

Members of the committee will include leaders from five industries: Military and veterans, professional athletes, real estate, hospitality, and legal services.

The announcement comes as an important deadline looms for the Rays.

Based on an agreement between the team and the City of St. Petersburg, the team has until December 31 to let St. Pete leaders know whether it will be leaving Tropicana Field.

Christaldi said he believes the Rays will meet that deadline, but it could come down to the wire.

"I still feel very optimistic that we can meet that December 31 deadline. What the public has to understand is that, in any kind of deal, as you approach closing, things get more and more tense. People have to roll up their sleeves, people have to get off their keisters and get things done. And that's what we're going to see over the next 30 days," he said. "I'm expecting the full spectrum of emotions to happen. But I still have confidence in the Rays. I have confidence in our elected officials and I have confidence in our public servants to roll up their sleeves and get this thing done."

During a news conference in July, the Rays unveiled renderings of a state-of-the-art ballpark that is expected to cost $892 million.

Christaldi said his organization has secured promises of at least $16 million a year. He said the team is also negotiating stadium naming rights with two unnamed companies to the tune of $8-to-10 million.

If the Rays can't meet the Dec. 31 deadline, the team can attempt to negotiate an extension with leaders in St. Pete.