Rays owner refuses to change ‘Tampa Bay’ name for new ballpark

The Tampa Bay Rays want to upgrade their stadium from Tropicana Field, but co-president Brian Auld will not be changing the team’s name to do so. 

Auld spoke with the St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday, saying he will not agree to have a new ballpark deal if it requires the team to change its name from “Tampa Bay” to “St. Petersburg.”

Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker had previously suggested the city have the Rays swap the origin of the team in exchange for an estimated $600 million in public funding and land development rights to build a new ballpark. 

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However, Auld made his intentions known before the city council. 

“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,” he said. 

“The name of the team is the Tampa Bay Rays, and it’s going to remain the Tampa Bay Rays,” Auld added, per WUSF. 

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Tropicana Field has long been considered a stadium that needed to fall out as an MLB destination. The dome in St. Petersburg has fallen behind other stadiums that have been erected and renovated over the years. 

Auld, though, hasn’t been in the best of light when it comes to the Rays in recent years. In 2021, Auld told the Wall Street Journal that he “concluded that it’s next to impossible that full-season baseball can succeed in Tampa Bay today.”

At the time, Auld was trying to see if the Rays could split their season between Tampa Bay and Montreal. That obviously never worked itself out. 

Presently, the Rays are fully committed to full-season ball in Tampa Bay. However, Auld and the franchise have not budged on making that happen.

As for the argument surrounding the potential name change, Auld says the Rays are just as synonymous with Tampa Bay as the NFL’s Buccaneers and NHL’s Lightning. 

“The Lightning and the Buccaneers recognize this, too,” Auld explained. “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.”

Auld noted that the team has plans to wear a “St. Pete” uniform for “at least one game,” though “complications with Major League Baseball’s arrangements with people like Nike” prevent them from committing to it fully.

Since being rebranded from the Devil Rays to just Rays in 2008, “Tampa Bay” has never been featured across the uniforms of the players. 

Tropicana Field is set to host yet another Rays season in 2024, but fans still have hopes that a new stadium can begin to be framed out for the future.

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