© 2024 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

St. Petersburg City Council is not moving forward on changing the Tampa Bay Rays’ name

Renderings of the new ballpark and redeveloped Tropicana Field site in St. Petersburg.
Tampa Bay Rays
Renderings of the new ballpark and redeveloped Tropicana Field site in St. Petersburg proposed by Rays and Hines.

The move followed a discussion on whether the team should become the St. Petersburg Rays, an idea pitched by former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker.

The St. Petersburg City Council voted not to move forward on a name change for the Tampa Bay Rays.

City officials and members of the public discussed whether the team should change their name to the St. Petersburg Rays during a council meeting Thursday.

A motion by council member Gina Driscoll asked Mayor Ken Welch’s administration to include the name change in stadium negotiations, as well as present a report on the matter during the council’s Jan. 4 meeting.

But after some debate, the council removed the name change from the request, instead asking the administration to provide ways to “elevate St. Petersburg.” The amended motion passed 6-2.

The vote came after council members heard from St. Petersburg residents about switching the Rays’ name. The majority of those who spoke during public comment were in favor of calling the team the St. Petersburg Rays.

The idea was pitched by former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker, who was among the speakers.

“… St. Petersburg, if it's going to put in hundreds of millions of dollars and incredibly valuable property into the enterprise, then at least we ought to have a discussion about whether the team name could be St. Petersburg, right?” Baker said.

Mayor Ken Welch and Rays president Brian Auld were also present. They explained why they were firmly against the name change.

“We are the Tampa Bay Rays. For more than 25 years, the Tampa Bay Rays have proudly called St. Petersburg our hometown. And that's what we want for the next 25 years and decades beyond,” Auld said. “Our name is deliberately inclusive. Our fans live throughout Tampa Bay in West Central Florida, and they come to St. Petersburg to watch their Rays play.”

He also said there would not be a new ballpark or development project if they were required to change the team’s name.

“We are the Tampa Bay Rays. For more than 25 years, the Tampa Bay Rays have proudly called St. Petersburg our hometown. And that's what we want for the next 25 years and decades beyond.”
Brian Auld

Welch said the name change was a distraction from plans to redevelop the Historic Gas Plant District.

“We are at an important point in our city's history. It’s the closest we've ever been to securing the equitable redevelopment of the Historic Gas Plant District and honoring those promises made to the community and building a long-term, multi-use home for the Rays and for our community," Welch said. "And that will provide decades of return on investment to our city and our county. And I think we ought to remain focused on that overarching goal.”

Following public comment, the council discussed the issue at length. Driscoll suggested ways to raise the city’s profile in addition to, or instead of, the name change.

“Maybe rather than changing the name of the team, why don't we make sure that we have St. Petersburg in the name of the stadium? Now that gets into naming rights, but that's where creative minds could actually get to something that could make everybody happy,” Driscoll said.

She also suggested telling sports broadcasters to refer to the area as St. Petersburg instead of Tampa.

Council member Copley Gerdes from District 1 said he supported “elevating St. Petersburg,” but was against discussing a name change.

“… I think we are alienating, and I thought the mayor put it very well, the partners in which got us here, to this point, so close to this development, so close to keeping the Rays here permanently in a home. And I'm just not willing to put that at risk,” Gerdes said.

Some members, including Gerdes, also said the council should be discussing other issues instead of the name change, like affordable housing and infrastructure.

“I'm happy to move forward this reasonable request for conversation today. But it does nothing to solve the issues that I care about,” council member Richie Floyd from District 8 said. “The stadium deal is a money pit. And quite frankly, I'm a lot less worried about the name that we assign to the pit that we throw public funds down and a lot more worried about the fact that we're throwing public money down this pit in the first place.”

Council vice-chair Deborah Figgs-Sanders echoed those sentiments.

“We have had some very extraordinary issues that impact a large part of our community that we didn't spend an eighth of this time discussing,” Figgs-Sanders said.

As WUSF’s digital news producer, I strive to serve others by sharing stories on our online platforms.
WUSF 89.7 depends on donors for the funding it takes to provide you the most trusted source of news and information here in town, across our state, and around the world. Support WUSF now by giving monthly, or make a one-time donation online.