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Rays President: Move To Ybor Only Way To Keep Team In Tampa Bay

Brian Auld speaks at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club
Steve Newborn
WUSF Public Media
Brian Auld speaks at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club

The president of the Tampa Bay Rays spoke Thursday at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club in St. Petersburg for the first time since the team announced it wants to move to Tampa. He fielded some hostile questions - but said a move is almost inevitable.

Brian Auld had to fend off questions like why shouldn't St. Petersburg feel betrayed by the Rays' desire to move to Ybor City. He replied their ultimate goal is to stay in the Tampa Bay area, but they have to make it a sustainable business.

"Ybor represents the multicultural history of this region beautifully. It is the definition of local authenticity," he said. "There may not be an area anywhere in Tampa Bay or possibly the country more ripe for the kind of economic injection that a ballpark can bring than Ybor."

Auld says that's because there are twice as many people who live within a half-hour of Ybor than who live near Tropicana Field. He says they need at least 10,000 more fans per game than they average now to become sustainable.

He also said there is no "Plan B" if some kind of public funding doesn't materialize in Tampa. The cost of a retractable roof stadium is at least $800 million - but the Rays are only promising a fraction of that amount.

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Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.