Outback Bowl on for 6 more years; What about a Rays stadium?

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Outback Steakhouse restaurants just inked a new six-year extension as the title sponsor for the Outback Bowl. The new contract runs through 2026, making it the longest-running sponsorship in the history of college football bowl games.

Outback took over the game that was in danger of ending 25 years ago and gave the game new life.

“With Outback Steakhouse’s continued commitment, the Outback Bowl will be able to grow the more than $1 billion economic impact it has generated to date," said Outback Bowl president and CEO Jim McVay. "It allows us to continue to positively showcase the Tampa Bay region both nationally and internationally, add to the almost $150 million generated for universities and expand our Charitable Giving Initiative program which has already benefited over ninety non-profits."

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan said this game is on solid ground due to the generous efforts from Outback and strong leadership from bowl officials. 

"This bowl checks all the boxes that we look for in hosting a major sporting event," Commissioner Ken Hagan told FOX 13 Sports. "From the economic impact, from the social impact, to the exposure that's generated. It's just incredible and we couldn't be more proud than to partner with Outback Steakhouse and the Outback Bowl."

With the Outback Bowl on solid ground, what efforts are being made to get the Tampa Bay Rays on firm footing with a new stadium? Hagan has been vocal in this effort and says St. Pete mayor Rick Kriseman needs to let the Rays return to the negotiation tables with Hillsborough County. 

"I think it's incumbent on St. Pete and for Mayor Kriseman to stop being shortsighted to see the big picture," said Hagan. "To allow the team to sit down and discuss with us. The worst thing for St. Pete, for the Tampa Bay Rays and for Tampa/Hillsborough County, is the status quo. We recognize that the Rays recognize that and now I think Mayor Kriseman and St. Pete needs to recognize that."

Hagan is concerned about other cities looking to steal the Rays away, but he continues to feel Tampa is the Rays' first and best option.

"I'm not as concerned about Montreal as some of the other communities," said Hagan. "Portland, Charlotte, perhaps Las Vegas, Nashville; communities like that. The reality is we do have 11th largest TV market and the next community behind us is Portland at number 22. So from a TV market perspective, we are well positioned. I think the Rays are realizing the grass isn't necessarily greener in other markets. When you tack that Commissioner Manfred would have to bless any relocation, they also would have to pay a significant relocation fee. That option is only going to be considered if we aren't able to make the deal work here in Tampa."