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City’s Rays stadium branding report underwhelms

Mark Parker



A recent scientific poll conducted by Pathfinder Opinion Research found voters overwhelmingly support keeping the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg. Photo: City of St. Petersburg.

A campaign announcing the Tampa Bay Rays are “Here to Stay” reached millions of people, and St. Petersburg administrators believe ongoing media coverage will continue garnering a national audience.

However, other aspects of a report on ways to elevate St. Petersburg’s brand through a $1.3 billion stadium agreement left some city council members feeling “disappointed.” Doyle Walsh, the city’s chief of staff, led the brief presentation during the meeting Thursday (Jan. 4).

In December, Councilmember Gina Driscoll requested a “fair and open” discussion regarding a name change to the St. Petersburg Rays. An extensive debate ensued, and Mayor Ken Welch and team president Brian Auld called the proposal a dealbreaker.

Driscoll would amend her motion and instead asked administrators to discuss additional ways of elevating St. Petersburg’s brand throughout the ballpark, including naming it after the city. While Driscoll watched Thursday’s meeting from home due to an illness, she provided the Catalyst with a comment Friday.

“I expected more,” Driscoll said. “And the residents of our city have every right to expect more than what we are getting in this deal.”

An example of city signage at Tropicana Field. Screengrab, city documents.

Walsh’s presentation mostly featured previously discussed aspects of a stadium agreement. Those include:

  • Signage: City officials can display promotional and public safety announcements throughout the ballpark, including its new marquee.
  • Branding: The city and team will mutually agree on a marketing plan, including the location and frequency of signage.
  • Promotions: The Rays and Visit St. Pete-Clearwater will forge a co-branding agreement and jointly promote the team, stadium and location.
  • Uniforms: The Rays will petition Major League Baseball to wear St. Petersburg-branded uniforms during at least one home game per season.

“Mayor (Ken) Welch’s administration has requested that Rays’ leadership also go back and look at ways to increase opportunities to wear these uniforms,” Walsh said. “They’ve agreed, and they’re working with MLB on that. These will be sold year-round.”

Walsh said team officials would also work to ensure media members state the Rays play in St. Petersburg rather than Tampa. He noted that any discussions of including the city in the stadium’s moniker would occur during the naming rights portion of term sheet negotiations.

Walsh also relayed that the city and team’s “Here to Stay” campaign reached several million people. That includes nearly five million online impressions.

City documents state the announcement “also drew notable coverage” from every local publication and national media outlets and reached “over 5.5 million people via ESPN and Fox Sports and significantly more through the Associated Press, Washington Post, USA Today and MLB (.com).” Walsh expressed the administration’s excitement for additional opportunities to elevate St. Petersburg’s brand through the 30-year project.

“I do want to say I’m a little disappointed in what’s been brought to us,” said Councilmember Ed Montanari.

He called including the city in the stadium’s name a “win-win” for the public-private partnership. While Montanari appreciated the signage examples, he believes the team can increase awareness for those watching games from home.

He also hopes to see the team regularly wear St. Petersburg-branded uniforms. “I know Councilmember Driscoll couldn’t be here today, but I’m sure when she comes back and we have more discussions on the Rays, this will be revisited.

“So I appreciate what you have shared with us, but I’m looking for a lot more.”

City Administrator Rob Gerdes said the current priority is a development funding agreement. He said city officials would then focus on a use agreement with additional signage and marketing details.

Gerdes said the Rays are eager partners and encouraged council members to offer their thoughts during individual meetings. He also believes team leadership might have concerns about contractual obligations for things “they might do regardless.”

“I can just give you one example,” Gerdes added. “On the current official logo, it does say, ‘St. Petersburg, Florida,’ underneath ‘Tropicana Field.’ I think there’s some other things that they would probably be willing to do.”

Much work remains before the Rays are officially here to stay, as Councilmember Lissette Hanewicz noted. Administrators will continue conducting closed-door negotiations and present occasional updates to the city council.

The mayoral administration expects to offer final agreements for council members’ approval in March.




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  1. Avatar

    Hugh Hazeltine

    January 10, 2024at7:17 pm

    Before you criticize the expression “We are St. Pete” you should know that it is a meaningful message for Mayor Welch and those of us that live here. Mayor Welch concludes his speeches with it and it will be his signature that is required to execute this deal. Then it will take a majority of the “St. Petersburg City Council” to approve his signature. Since St. Petersburg is set to contribute $287.5M for the stadium and $130M for infrastructure or $417.5M total, it seems fair to discuss how the team and or Stadium are to be identified.

  2. Avatar

    Hugh Hazeltine

    January 10, 2024at6:44 pm

    Much of the proposed contract can be seen on the WUSF web site.

  3. Avatar

    Melvin Junior

    January 10, 2024at12:05 am

    LoL I think the Yankees should change their name from “New York” to the BRONX Yankees! Or, just keep it the same and let them represent the entire area overall… Then, use the “Bronx Bombers” as their ‘city connect’ uni’s!!!! Yep, option number two is MUCH better, just as Tampa Bay is for THIS area!!!! They (desperately) NEED the entire TB Region to be able to feel a part of it all… There’re lots of fans/people who come to their games from Bradenton/Sarasota to Lakeland and Pasco County and the more the merrier. They need all they can get.

  4. Avatar

    John Donovan

    January 9, 2024at4:51 pm

    Todays Catalyst: “Del Zoppo, originally from Boston, spent 30 years working on Wall Street. He and his wife visited St. Petersburg on a “beautiful” January weekend in 2015 as she considered a job offer from the Home Shopping Network (HSN).

    “When I came here … I thought this was the greatest city I’ve ever been in,” Del Zoppo said. “And I ran international trading for Citibank – I was on a plane all the time.”

    He didn’t mention “Tampa Bay” Hmmmm. It’s almost if – no, it is – because St Petersburg is a distinct and unique place. Worthy of recognition and promotion. And considering our offer of $300mm in bond financing for a new stadium, St Petersburg should receive strong value considerations.

  5. Avatar

    John Donovan

    January 9, 2024at4:43 pm

    ” January 9, 2024 – Fewer than 1% of Tripadvisor’s eight million listings receive “Best of the Best” recognition, and St. Petersburg nearly topped this year’s rankings of the Travelers’ Choice Trending Destinations. The platform credited the Sunshine City’s weather, proximity to Ft. De Soto Park, Pinellas Trail access, Tampa Bay Rays baseball and Sunken Gardens for the high ranking. ”

    They have separate rankings for Tampa and St Petersburg? It’s almost as-if they are two distinct cities. Trip Advisor would know with their massive data. Hmmmm.

  6. Avatar

    Mike Connelly

    January 9, 2024at12:30 pm

    Politics is a lot like church. Many attend,few understand.

  7. Avatar


    January 8, 2024at5:48 pm

    It has to be noted that St Petersburg Rays would probably soon be shortened to the SPRAYS. imo

  8. Avatar

    Ryan Todd

    January 8, 2024at4:10 pm

    Please kill this deal, Councilwoman Driscoll and Councilman Montanari.

  9. Avatar


    January 7, 2024at8:24 pm

    When I lived in Denver and the COLORADO Rockies were introduced, no one whined about why Denver wasn’t in the name. Everyone knew they played in Denver. Stop with this nonsense. St Pete is finally coming of age and people will know the city for what it brings in its own right. Tampa Bay Rays represents the region, as it should. Just stop.

  10. Avatar

    Bill Herrmann

    January 7, 2024at7:09 pm

    Has anyone done an independent financial analysis of the proposed contract? Is the proposed contract available to the public?

  11. Avatar

    Allen Spiegel

    January 7, 2024at12:09 pm

    This is a fools argument. St. Petersburg is already a world class destination for tourists, the arts and natural beauty. To throw a wrench into a hard fought deal at this late hour is someone’s idea of an ego trip. I say this as an ex-pat NYer, and very few fans care that the NFL Giants and Jets are actually in NJ.

  12. Avatar

    AJ Hernandez

    January 6, 2024at10:07 pm

    The whole city isn’t gay. Why always with the rainbow. That only speaks to a percentage. Speak for the whole city and we might get on board.

  13. Avatar

    John Donovan

    January 6, 2024at9:30 pm

    This isn’t difficult. The team primarily lives off the team nickname – Rays. No one suggesting a change, unless the Rays desire one. But the geographic description is worth many millions of $$$ to St Peterburg and Pinellas County. So unless the Rays can issue their own bonds and pay for stadium in full, or “Tampa Bay” pays up big-ime, St. Petersburg would be smart to extract a fair price. That price costs the Rays next to nothing out of pocket. But is very valuable to St Petersburg. Win-win. Any negotiation you aren’t willing to walk away from isn’t a negotiation. ‘Dealbreaker” means no $300 million for Rays. Build a convention center on that property instead. And more hotels. St Petersburg, the beaches and Pinellas area businesses won’t be upset.

  14. Avatar

    Velva Lee Heraty

    January 6, 2024at7:09 pm

    I like the idea of separating St. Pete from the Tampa Bay area. At one time clustering Clearwater, St. Pete and Tampa made sense. It no longer does. Not sure seasonal baseball is the way to do it. I think a bigger picture enhancing St. Pete needs to be discussed of which the Rays can participate in some day.

  15. Avatar


    January 6, 2024at6:14 pm

    The whole “We Are St. Pete” thing is… STUPID. I mean really, how original and ‘cheesy’ is that!? I believe EVERY single city in the entire WORLD uses it… Usually, as a hashtag (along with “St. Pete Strong”) whenever something ‘terrible’ happens. SERIOUSLY, every NCAA and High School sports program all across THE COUNTRY has used-it at one time or another LoL. Yeah, “WE ARE ST. PETE” hahahah… I sure bet that REALLY ‘raises’ people’s awareness of the city. It’s Laughable. The whole thing is LAUGHABLE. These people worried/stirring up junk about about all of this trivial nonsense wanting to beg/pressure Publix, Raymond James, Hard Rock, Disney or whomever about putting “St. Petersburg” under their stadium naming rights, Etc. LoL… While, trying to strong arm the Devil Rays into changing their name from Tampa Bay, etc. When, it is NOT happening. And, when literally, NooooONE CARES. NO. ONE. Just nothing but a complete waste of time. I guess then (just off the top of my head), the NE Patriots should change their to FOXBORO Patriots (or MA?), or the Dallas Cowboys back in the day to the IRVINE Cowboys, or the Texas Rangers to ARLINGTON… What about the Giants & Jets!? Or, how bout the Chiefs… Are they in KANSAS or MISSOURI!? There are literally DOZENS of these all across MLB/NFL/NBA/NHL… What about the Florida Panthers!? Are they in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood… Are the Carolina Hurricanes really in Charlotte or Raleigh… Durham!? Hmmmm… Or, is it somewhere in SOUTH “Carolina!?” Hmmmm… That’s right! Whooooo CARES… Nooooobooodyyyyy. Now, I’m good with the St. Pete Uni’s tho, as being the Rays new MLB “city connect” jerseys… I think that’s great!!!! But the rest of all THIS tho, is nothing but just a huuuge waste of time, & a complete total distraction. So, NEXT… Let’s just PLEASE move-on. 100%

  16. Avatar

    Ronald C Ledet

    January 6, 2024at5:34 pm

    Option 1: Let the team owners build their own stadium at their expense, name the team whatever they want, and pay appropriate city and county taxes for the use of the land just like every other business in the county.
    Option 2: Leave.

  17. Avatar

    Ron Ogden

    January 6, 2024at5:19 pm

    Trying to turn the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (a terrible name in the first place) into the St. Petersburg something or others will only further confuse the public’s view of what already is a confusing franchise. Then there is the issue of how the rest of Pinellas County will feel about funding a team for $330 million+ that only identifies with one part of the county, and a part of the county that quite a few of us don’t feel is that much of an asset in the first place. Leave it alone.

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