TBO.com, The Tampa Tribune and The Tampa Times - breaking news and weather
Monday, Jul 14, 2014

Tampa, St. Pete chambers unite on Rays stadium funding

Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 01:50 PM

It's hard to avoid pitting Tampa against St. Petersburg when the subject of a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays comes up.

After all, each city can't get a ballpark. But business leaders on each side of the bay insist the two cities don't have to fight each other. With that in mind, the chairmen of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce will co-chair a stadium caucus aimed at bringing about a new ballpark.

Figuring out where to build a stadium isn't on the agenda.

"We've resigned ourselves to we really need a new stadium," said Chuck Sykes, chairman of the Tampa chamber and co-chair of stadium caucus. "The question is how do you end up paying for this thing?"

The Tampa chamber thought of creating a stadium caucus late last year, but was very sensitive to appearances. Would people think it was trying to steal the Rays to Tampa? So it decided to bring the St. Petersburg chamber on board and create an executive committee with businesspeople from both chambers.

Sykes and Mark Wimberly, chairman of the St. Petersburg chamber, will co-chair the 14-member committee. Rays leadership won't have a seat on the committee, but they likely will make presentations to it.

The caucus' work won't be easy. It will tackle how to pay for a new ballpark, which could run $600 million, without relying too heavily on taxpayers. It also will study Major League Baseball finances and provide an estimate of how much money the Rays could afford to put into a ballpark – even if the Rays don't open up their books.

Hillsborough-based members of the executive committee are: Rob Rohrlack, chief executive of the Tampa chamber; investment banker John Hill; TECO Energy executive Sandra Callahan; Dan LeClair, an executive of AACSB International; Dave Auker, an executive with Shumaker, Loop and Kendrick; David Mallitz of developer DeBartolo Holdings; and Fifth Third Bank executive Brian Lamb.

Members from Pinellas are: St. Petersburg chamber Chief Executive Officer Chris Steinocher; All Children's Hospital executive Arnie Stenberg; wealth manager Jeff Hearn; attorney David Punzak; and JSA Healthcare executive Sidney Morgan.

msasso@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7865