New Tampa Bay Rays Stadium Site May ‘Rays-Up” in Tampa’s Channel District

Officials may have found a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark site in Hillsborough County, but the team’s timing on a decision for a new ballpark is reportedly hinging on a few factors.

For their effort to replace Tropicana Field with a modern new facility, the Rays have been canvassing their site options in both Pinellas County and Hillsborough County. Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa, is believed to be zeroing in on the Channel District-Ybor City area as the site of a new facility.

No final decision on a preferred ballpark site has been made by the Rays, and other contenders could be in the mix, but the Channel District-Ybor City area does offer a few points of intrigue. A ballpark at this location would not only put the Rays in an urban environment, but allow additional development opportunities to take place, following the recent trend that has unfolded at major league facilities such as Atlanta’s SunTrust Park. Downtown Tampa is already undergoing a huge transformation thanks to big investments from Jeff Vinik, owner of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, both in terms of arena upgrades, business investments and real-estate development.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan is cautioning that plenty of things will need to happen for Hillsborough County to land the team, but adds that the county sees an opportunity for the area. More from The Tampa Bay Times:

The officials are narrowing in on the Channel District-Ybor City area and have approached landowners about an option agreement that would secure the rights to those parcels if the Rays chose to move.

There are still moving pieces, Hagan cautioned, but “that fits perfectly in our belief that the ballpark needs to be in an urban environment. It also aligns with many of the Ray’s guiding principles for their next ballpark.”

“Our outside counsel has repeatedly said the next step is to get site control,” Hagan said. “Once we have site control we can go public and hope to have that earnest dialogue on the location and get the community feedback on the possibilities that exist there.”

The area south and east of a roundabout off Nuccio Parkway not far from the gates of Ybor City “has received a lot of attention,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said, “and I think it’s appropriate.” He wouldn’t say it was the leading site, adding there were “other potential parcels,” but said it’s walkability to downtown, space for parking and access to the TECO streetcar line are an advantage.

One factor for the Rays is apparently the current mayoral campaign in St. Petersburg, which includes incumbent Rick Kriseman as well as former mayor Rick Baker. Should Kriseman, Baker, or any other candidate in the field fail to secure at least 50 percent of the vote during the August 29 election, the top two candidates with participate in a November run-off.

Though the Rays have maintained that they have a good relationship with both Kriseman and Baker, the team apparently does not want to be seen an affecting the outcome of the election by announcing a decision by making any announcements before the election it has concluded. More from The Tampa Bay Times:

If the Rays make an announcement in a way that’s perceived to help or hurt Kriseman or Baker, it could hamper negotiations in Kriseman’s second term or Baker’s new administration.

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg told the Tampa Bay Times in July that he didn’t think the outcome of the race would affect the team’s pursuit of a new ballpark.

“We’ve worked with both the mayoral candidates in the past and we’ve had good experiences with both of them at times, so that all remains to be seen,” Sternberg said.

The team has privately told Hagan the same, noting that the agreement with St. Petersburg runs until January 2019. Even if Baker opposes the Rays leaving St. Petersburg, they don’t think he can stop it, Hagan said.

In early 2016, the City of St. Petersburg signed off on an agreement that would allow the Rays to expand their search for a new ballpark. That agreement is good for three years, before it expires in early 2019.

Good News Rays Fans, MLB Teams More Likely To Have A Bad Game Due To Jet Lag When Flying East

Playing at least 81 games on the road, sometimes thousands of miles from home and in a different time zone, will eventually have an effect on even the most fit professional baseball player, but is there a correlation between distance (and direction) traveled and performance?

That was the question that researchers from Northwestern University hoped to figure out after analyzing data from 20 Major League Baseball seasons — from 1992 to 2011 — comprising more than 46,535 Major League Baseball games, for effects of “travel-induced circadian misalignment” — aka jet lag — on performance.

For the study, published this month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers determined jet lag by looking at the number of time zones crossed and the number of days since travel, and then defined jet lag as those games where a team had at a two-hour jet lag, that is, where a team had traveled across at least two time zones. Using those parameters, researchers found 4,919 instances of teams having at least two hours of jet lag.

The study’s authors also accounted for “potential confounding variables,” such as home-field advantage and team effects.

“Because home teams were less often jet lagged, i.e., upon return travel home, differences attributed to jet lag could be due to home-field advantage, i.e., the general advantage a team displays at home,” researchers noted.

In general, the negative correlation between jet lag and a team’s winning percentage was stronger when teams traveled eastward than when they flew west, researchers found. Which makes sense, they say, as it’s “consistent with the fact that the intrinsic human circadian period is slightly longer than 24 hours, thus making it easier to adjust to westward travel, which lengthens the day, than to eastward travel.”

That said, there was only a significant negative correlation with team slugging percentage — total bases per at bat — for home teams, not away teams.

“Home-team eastward travel, but not westward travel, significantly reduced doubles, triples, and stolen bases, and increased double plays,” researchers write.

While only home teams saw a significant effect on their offensive performance, both home and away teams’ defensive efforts struggled in the face of jet lag from eastward travel, primarily in the form of giving up more home runs than non-jet lagged teams, researchers found.

“Pitching location and velocity appear to be important for determining the probability of giving up a home run relative to a swinging strike,” researchers note. “Thus, we hypothesize that jet lag, particularly in the eastward direction, may adversely affect these aspects of pitching which in turn impact home runs allowed.”

Despite the findings that most major jet-lag effects are evident after eastward but not westward travel, researchers said they did observe some “isolated effects of westward travel, although they had limited effects on major offensive or defensive parameters.” For example, stolen base attempts.

As for why they detected a more “robust” effect of jet lag on the home team offense rather than the away team, researchers speculate that one possibility is that the away team has a more structured daily schedule when away from home than does the home team when returning home. The home team players can go to their houses and rest, for example, while the away team is just hoping the hotel’s beds aren’t excessively uncomfortable.

That difference might not be evident on defense because pitchers — especially starting pitchers who play every fifth day — have a more structured schedule leading up to their start irrespective of whether they are home or away, researchers explain.

“The results on the effect of jet lag on home runs allowed suggest that teams may want to change their travel protocol to mitigate this effect,” researchers note. That might mean having your starting pitcher travel to the game location a few days ahead of time, they suggest, to adjust to the new time zone.

“Taken together, these quantitative high-resolution data reveal a surprising specificity in the effect of circadian misalignment on athletic performance,” the study’s authors write.

The Rays Announce 2017 Spring Training Schedule

The Tampa Bay Rays spring training schedule and ticket information were released for 2017, the team’s ninth Grapefruit League season at Charlotte Sports Park. The Rays are scheduled to play 18 spring training home games at Charlotte Sports Park, beginning on Saturday, February 25 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. All home games begin at 1:05 p.m., with the exception of the Wednesday, March 8 game against the Colombian National Team, which begins at 6:35 p.m. and will be followed by postgame fireworks.

The first workout for pitchers and catchers is scheduled for Tuesday, February 14. The first full-squad workout is scheduled for Sunday, February 19. The spring training schedule remains subject to change and fans are encouraged to check raysbaseball.com/spring for updates and to see the full schedule of promotions and giveaways.

Season Tickets: Spring training season tickets provide access to the best available seats at the best available prices for Rays spring training. Spring training season ticket holders also receive other benefits, including the opportunity to purchase parking at 30 percent off, a discount merchandise card good for 15 percent off in the Charlotte Sports Park team store, a Rays spring training season ticket holder T-shirt and hat, and an exclusive event with Rays player(s) and/or coach(es) and staff. Season tickets for the full 18-game home spring training schedule start at $325 and are available by placing a deposit online at raysbaseball.com/spring or by calling 888-FAN-RAYS.

Group and Suite Tickets: Information regarding tickets for suites and groups is available by calling (941) 206-HITS.  Tickets for groups of 15 or more are available at a specially discounted rate of $2 off per ticket for most games.

3-Game Packs: Fans can select any three spring training home games while receiving special savings of $2 off per ticket for most games. Spring training 3-Game Packs will be available for purchase online only at raysbaseball.com/spring beginning at 10 a.m. on Cyber Monday, November 28.

Single Game Tickets: Single game tickets will go on sale on Friday, January 13 at 10 a.m., online only at raysbaseball.com/spring, and at the Charlotte Sports Park box office beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday, January 14.

DAY DATE OPPONENT SITE TIME
Fri February 24 @Minnesota Lee County 7:05 p.m.
Sat February 25 Pittsburgh Charlotte County 1:05 p.m.
Sun February 26 Boston Charlotte County 1:05 p.m.
Mon February 27 @Philadelphia Clearwater 1:05 p.m.
Tue February 28 Minnesota Charlotte County 1:05 p.m.
Wed March 1 Philadelphia Charlotte County 1:05 p.m.
Thu March 2 @Boston Fort Myers 1:05 p.m.
Fri March 3 Detroit Charlotte County 1:05 p.m.
Sat March 4 Baltimore Charlotte County 1:05 p.m.
Sun March 5 @Toronto Dunedin 1:07 p.m.
Tue March 7 @New York-AL Tampa 1:05 p.m.
Wed March 8 Colombia Charlotte County 6:35 p.m.
Thu March 9 Pittsburgh Charlotte County 1:05 p.m.
Fri March 10 @Pittsburgh Bradenton 1:05 p.m.
Sat March 11 @Boston Fort Myers 1:05 p.m.
Sun March 12 Toronto Charlotte County 1:05 p.m.
Mon March 13 @Minnesota Lee County 1:05 p.m.
Tue March 14 New York-AL Charlotte County 1:05 p.m.
@Baltimore Sarasota 1:05 p.m.
Wed March 15 Boston Charlotte County 1:05 p.m.
Fri March 17 Minnesota Charlotte County 1:05 p.m.
Sat March 18 @Toronto Dunedin 1:07 p.m.
Sun March 19 Philadelphia Charlotte County 1:05 p.m.
Mon March 20 Pittsburgh Charlotte County 1:05 p.m.
Tue March 21 @Pittsburgh Bradenton 1:05 p.m.
Wed March 22 @Baltimore Sarasota 6:05 p.m.
Thu March 23 New York-AL Charlotte County 1:05 p.m.
Fri March 24 @Pittsburgh Bradenton 1:05 p.m.
Sat March 25 Boston Charlotte County 1:05 p.m.
Sun March 26 @New York-AL Tampa 1:05 p.m.
Tue March 28 @Minnesota Lee County 1:05 p.m.
Wed March 29 Baltimore Charlotte County 1:05 p.m.
Thu March 30 Minnesota Charlotte County 1:05 p.m.
Fri March 31 @Philadelphia Clearwater 1:05 p.m.

Oldsmar Is Making A Push For The Rays

Oldsmar is vying to construct a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark, with mayor Doug Bevis making a case for the project. 

On October 27, Bevis will present a preliminary concept for a ballpark in the city, which is located in Pinellas County. Bevis is building Oldmar’s case around its proximity and land availability. The city is just west of the Pinellas County/Hillsborough County line, and the proposed ballpark could be constructed on 120 acres of land west of Tampa Bay Downs. More from the Tampa Bay Times:

Bevis plans to unveil a conceptual masterplan with renderings of a new ballpark at a media event next week, on Oct. 27. Bevis will be joined by Francisco Semsch, President of FSA Architecture/Construction.

The presentation will detail why city officials think Oldsmar is the right location. That includes regional connectivity, available land, development readiness and financial feasibility, according to a news release.

Among the information that will be presented are numbers showing the income and population density within 30 miles of the proposed new site.

A few other details that have been discussed in the past include the funding model, which may wind up calling for a joint agreement between Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. Such a move is not unprecedented among major league facilities–Milwaukee’s Miller Park, for instance, received funding from a sales tax that was applied to five counties–but Hillsborough and Pinellas have pursued separate projects thus far.

Additionally, there is the question of how Oldsmar’s proximity will come into play. While it is accessible from both counties, it is also located a good distance north of both downtown St. Petersburg and downtown Tampa. Tropicana Field is about 27 miles south of Tampa Bay Downs, and downtown Tampa is estimated to be at least 16 miles from the racetrack.

Pinellas County officials, however, mentioned Oldsmar as a potential ballpark site during a meeting in July. Of the sites that were presented during that discussion, Oldsmar was located the furthest north.

2017 Tampa Bay Rays Schedule Released

For the second consecutive year, the Tampa Bay Rays will open the 2017 season as part of ESPN’s national Opening Day coverage when they host the New York Yankees on Sunday, April 2 at Tropicana Field. Game time will be announced at a later date. All 30 major league teams released their 2017 schedules Wednesday. The schedule is subject to change.

The Rays will also host the Oakland Athletics in a single-admission doubleheader on Saturday, June 10 — Major League Baseball’s first scheduled doubleheader since July 16, 2011, when the A’s hosted the Los Angeles Angels, and only the second since the A’s played at Minnesota on June 7, 1996.

“Many of us in the Rays organization have fond memories of single-gate doubleheaders, so this is something that we have long wanted to do,” said Rays President Brian Auld. “The schedule lines up for it nicely next season and we’re going to work hard to make it a special day at Tropicana Field.”

It will also be the second doubleheader at Tropicana Field. On September 30, 2004, the Rays and Detroit Tigers played a single-admission doubleheader after Hurricane Frances forced postponement of two games four weeks earlier.

This will be the fourth time the Rays have hosted the Yankees in their home opener. Tampa Bay won the three previous games in 2004, 2009 and 2012. This will be the eighth consecutive season the Rays will open the season at home. The Rays have sold out their last 11 home openers. The Yankees return for a weekend series, May 19-21, and another three-game set, September 11-13.

Also highlighting the home schedule are a pair of weekend series with the Boston Red Sox (July 7-9 and September 15-17) and home-and-home two-game series with the Chicago Cubs. The Rays will host the Cubs, September 19-20, and visit Wrigley Field, July 4-5. The Cubs will be making only their second appearance at Tropicana Field, first since the Rays swept them in a three-game series in 2008.

For the fifth consecutive season, Tampa Bay will play 20 interleague games. The Rays will face all five teams from the National League Central Division and continue their annual home-and-home series with the Miami Marlins. Other interleague home opponents include the Cincinnati Reds (June 19-21) and Milwaukee Brewers (August 4-6). The Rays will visit Busch Stadium (St. Louis) and PNC Park (Pittsburgh).

The schedule includes 76 games versus their rivals from the American League East Division and 33 against the teams from both the AL Central and AL West Divisions. The breakdown includes 19 games each against the Yankees (9 home, 10 away), Orioles (9 home, 10 away), Red Sox (9 home, 10 away) and Toronto Blue Jays (10 home, 9 away).

The Rays will play seven games against the Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros. The Rays will have six games apiece versus the Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins, Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners.

The Rays close out the 2017 home schedule with a three-game homestand against the Orioles, September 29.

You may download the Rays 2017 Schedule Here!

Double Play Season Tickets may be purchased by calling 888-FAN-RAYS.

Tampa Bay Rays Turn Pride Night at the Trop Into ‘We Are Orlando’ Night

The Tampa Bay Rays honored victims of Orlando’s mass shooting with a dedicated Pride Night on Friday, which drew their largest regular season crowd in more than 10 years.

Forty-nine people were killed at an Orlando night club on Sunday in what was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The Rays chose to make their contest against San Francisco a night of observance as Tropicana hosted 40,135 fans, the most at the ballpark since Opening Day in 2006.

The team wore “We are Orlando” T-Shirts for batting practice and hats of their former minor league team, the Orlando Rays during the contest. A tribute video from both teams played on the scoreboard.

Tampa Bay also made tickets for the game available for just $5 beginning on Tuesday and donated the proceeds to a victim’s fund. The Rays announced that they raised more than $300,000.

“Orlando is a huge part of baseball’s heart,” said Major League Baseball’s vice president of social responsibility Billy Bean. “What happened in Orlando happened to everybody, and I’ve been very proud of the way baseball has responded with wanting to be supportive.”

Warrick Dunn to Throw First Pitch at ‘Chop at the Trop’

Former Florida State running back, NFL star and standout philanthropist, Warrick Dunn, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch when the Tampa Bay Rays host the San Francisco Giants at 3:45 p.m. on Sunday, June 18, at Tropicana Field.

In its fourth year, “Chop at the Trop” has become a fan favorite for Seminoles all around the Sunshine State.

“We enjoy bringing Florida State Athletics to fans that can’t always travel to Tallahassee,” Seminole Boosters CEO Andy Miller said. “‘Chop at the Trop’ is a great experience for Nole fans of every age and era.”

Previous Seminoles to throw out the first pitch at the event include: Florida State head baseball coach Mike Martin (2013), Bobby Bowden (2014) and current FSU football head coach Jimbo Fisher (2015).

Dunn starred at Florida State from 1993-96, becoming a three-time All-ACC selection and helping the Seminoles capture their first national title during his freshman season. He became the first FSU running back to record three 1,000-yard rushing seasons and is the program’s career leader in rushing yards (3,959). Following his collegiate career, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Dunn with the 12th overall pick in the first round of the 1997 NFL Draft. He went on to star for five years for the Bucs before spending six seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. He wrapped up his career with a final season back in Tampa in 2008 to complete an outstanding 12-year NFL career that saw him go to three Pro Bowls and finish ranked in the Top 20 in NFL history in rushing yards at the time of his retirement.

Dunn is also well-known for his philanthropic efforts and amazing generosity. Warrick Dunn Charities improves lives through innovative programming inspired by Dunn’s life journey. He started Homes for the Holidays, a program of the Charities, in 1997 during his rookie year with the Buccaneers. The program is a tribute to his mother, Betty Smothers, a Baton Rouge police officer who as a single-mother of six worked tirelessly to achieve the American dream of owning her own home. While working a second job as a security guard, she was killed in the line of duty and was never able to realize that dream. Warrick Dunn and Warrick Dunn Charities will celebrate the 150th family acquiring their new home with Homes for Holidays this year. To read more about Warrick Dunn Charities, visit www.wdc.org.

Florida State fans and Tampa Bay Rays fans can purchase discounted tickets at www.raysbaseball.com/noles and use the promo code: “NOLES2.” Portions of the tickets sold will support Florida State Athletics.

The Rays Continue To Be The Most Clueless Business in Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay Rays execs met with Hillsborough County and city of Tampa officials yesterday to discuss possible stadium sites, and boy, did they discuss a lot of them:

They spent nearly two hours going over nine sites both inside and outside the Tampa city limits — seven presented by the Hillsborough group, two more by the Rays…

Afterward, the Rays would not discuss any of the sites. Elected officials confirmed only a partial list: the Tampa Park Apartments site near downtown, the Jefferson High School site in West Shore, docks near Ybor City now used by International Ship Repair, the Florida State Fairgrounds east of the city and the Heights property just north of Interstate 275.

Not all these sites are necessarily available — the developer of the Heights site, for example, told the Tampa Bay Times, “we’re excited about [our] project; it doesn’t include a baseball stadium” — but they’re throwing them all into the hopper regardless. Rays president Brian Auld said the team will sit down with Pinellas County officials at a later date to identify possible sites on the other side of the bay.

All this is fine enough due diligence, and a necessary first step if the Rays want to determine where a stadium could go, and more important, how much it might cost. Buried way, way down at the bottom of the TB Times piece is this snippet on funding of any new stadium, wherever it might end up:

Based on where a stadium was built, officials have said there could be up to 10 different sources of funding. Along with money from the team, those could include property taxes earmarked for community redevelopment in areas like downtown Tampa, rental car surcharges, some hotel bed taxes, money authorized by the Legislature, ticket user fees and foreign investment available through the federal government’s EB-5 visa program.

In other words, “We don’t know yet where a stadium might go, or how to pay for it.” For all the kerfuffle over St. Petersburg not letting the Rays out of their lease until recently, these are still the main issues keeping the team from building a new stadium, and they’re not going to resolved easily or, it looks like, soon.

Everyone knows that the Rays need to move to Tampa from St. Pete, as they are losing revenue hand-over-fist simply because no none wants to make the trip to St. Pete to watch a sub-par club play ball. Good ol’ Stewy and the City of St. Petersburg are undoubtedly driving the Rays organization into the ground; without breaking any new ground.

Hey Stuart… just hand over the reigns to Jeff Vinik already, he seems to have a handle on revitalization!

What Do ALL of Florida’s Professional Sports Teams Have in Common? They All Support The Special Olympics

Leaders of Florida’s professional sports teams recently gathered in Miami to create a game plan to change perceptions about people with intellectual disabilities. Hosted by Special Olympics Florida, leadership from the Tampa Bay Rays, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Orlando Magic, Orlando City Soccer, Miami Marlins, and Miami Heat all took part in shaping the direction of the newly created Sports Advisory Council for Special Olympics Florida.

The Sports Advisory Council for Special Olympics Florida is comprised of leaders from the state’s professional sports organizations who provide guidance on elevating the role of sports in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities in Florida.

Founded in 1972, Special Olympics Florida provides year-round sports training, competition, leadership, and health programs to children and adults with intellectual disabilities at no cost.

Members of the Sports Advisory Council for Special Olympics Florida include:

Brian Auld – President, Tampa Bay Rays
Brian Ford – Chief Operating Officer, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Garfinkel – President and CEO, Miami Dolphins
Steve Griggs – Chief Executive Officer, Tampa Bay Lightning
Peter Luukko – Executive Chairman, Florida Panthers
Mark Lamping – President, Jacksonville Jaguars
Alex Martins – Chief Executive Officer, Orlando Magic
Phil Rawlins – Founder and President, Orlando City Soccer
David Samson – President, Miami Marlins
Eric Woolworth – President, Miami Heat

“This is a monumental accomplishment for our athletes,” said Sherry Wheelock, President and CEO of Special Olympics Florida. “By coming together, we gain exposure to the business of sports that will help shape Special Olympics Florida so that we can serve even more athletes who have an intellectual disability.”

“The Miami Dolphins have a history of involvement, support, and inclusion with Special Olympics chapters in Dade and Broward, and we are excited about providing a platform for the great work they have done in empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities,” said Dolphins President and CEO Tom Garfinkel. “Our mission of being community stewards and building character through sports are aligned, and we look forward to expanding our relationship with Special Olympics Florida.”

“The Tampa Bay Rays are proud to be members of the Sports Advisory Council for Special Olympics Florida,” said Rays President Brian Auld. “It’s our honor to help raise awareness of the tremendous work Special Olympics Florida does to help people with intellectual disabilities demonstrate their skills and talents through sports.”

“Participation in sports plays a vital role in the physical and social development of all athletes,” said Brian Ford, Chief Operating Officer of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “I am proud to support and serve on the Sports Advisory Council for Special Olympics Florida as it continues its mission to create awareness and provide the needed resources which are so critical to the success of these gifted athletes.”

“The Tampa Bay Lightning and Special Olympics Florida share a common commitment to building strong communities of inclusion and respect for all individuals through sports,” said Lightning CEO Steve Griggs. “This partnership will help make a positive impact on athletes with and without intellectual disabilities in Tampa and across the state.”

“The Panthers are committed to supporting athletics in the community, and Special Olympics Florida provides a year-round training ground for competition,” Florida Panthers Executive Chairman Peter Luukko said. “I’m proud to support athletes with intellectual disabilities in a setting where they can enjoy a variety of team and individual sports.”

“On behalf of the Jacksonville Jaguars, I’m excited to contribute to the growth of Special Olympics Florida,” said Jaguars President Mark Lamping. “The Special Olympic mission of inclusion and empowerment for individuals with intellectual disabilities is one we should all support, and sports is the perfect platform for teaching important life lessons like determination, goal setting, and team work.”

“Sports transcend all barriers, cultures, ethnicities, and languages, and the Special Olympics truly are the embodiment of what can be accomplished through sport,” said Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins. “The Orlando Magic are proud supporters of the Special Olympics and believe in what the athletes and organization represent – diversity, inclusion, and empowerment.”

“We have always been an organization that embraced and encouraged diversity, and the Special Olympics organization is exemplary of these values,” said Orlando City President Phil Rawlins. “Orlando City is therefore honored and delighted to partner with and support Special Olympics.”

“As leaders in sports, we are driven by the opportunity to give back to our hometowns and work alongside values-driven organizations that improve people’s lives,” said Marlins President David Samson. “Special Olympics Florida is a treasured partner that serves people with intellectual disabilities, and we are all committed to the role sports can play to empower all athletes.”

“Whether playing professionally or first learning to dribble a ball, sports can bring together individuals of all abilities and show how we can achieve our own personal best,” said Heat President Eric Woolworth. “The Heat look forward to collaborating with Special Olympics Florida in this endeavor and demonstrating the power of sports to build communities of respect and inclusion.”

Members of the Sports Advisory Council for Special Olympics Florida provide counsel in two areas. First, members share insights into the business of sports so that Special Olympics can become an even more business-oriented nonprofit, ensuring that people with intellectual disabilities who compete in sports receive quality training and competitive opportunities. Additionally, because Special Olympics Florida does not charge a fee to participate, members provide guidance on growing Special Olympics Florida’s foundation so revenue becomes more diverse and sustainable. Expanding the nonprofit would allow more athletes to experience the friendship, confidence, and unity facilitated by sports.

The newly formed Sports Advisory Council met for the first time in Miami in February, representing the first time in nearly 17 years that leaders from Florida’s professional sports teams assembled in the same room. The next meeting is scheduled for May 26, 2016.

To learn more about the Sports Advisory Council for Special Olympics Florida, click here.

Republic Bank Announces Partnership with Tampa Bay Rays – Republic Bank Draft Room

Republic Bank is now a proud partner of the Tampa Bay Rays Major League Baseball team. The partnership launched today with the unveiling of the ‘Republic Bank Draft Room’ at Tropicana Field.

Republic Bank and the Rays have worked together on creating and building a new destination area designed exclusively for season ticket holders and guests. The collaboration reflects an effort to add value to the existing season ticket holder base by providing additional benefits and an enhanced game experience.

“The Republic Bank Draft Room is the latest addition to a robust variety of benefits available to season ticket holders,” said Rays President Brian Auld. “Republic Bank and the Rays share a commitment to providing outstanding customer service to our clients, so this partnership promises to be a strong one.”

Located on the mezzanine level along the third base line, the Republic Bank Draft Room blends hospitality and comfort with special access to Rays staff, players, alumni, coaches and local personalities. Featuring pre- and postgame entertainment, the lounge area offers local craft beers and themed signature food items based on the team’s opponent.

“We are thrilled to be a partner of the Tampa Bay Rays, and to expand the Republic Bank brand in the Florida market,” said Steve Trager, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for Republic Bank. “At Republic Bank we believe we can make our clients’ lives easier, and we are delighted that the Tampa Bay Rays want to extend this philosophy to season ticket holders with the Republic Bank Draft Room.”

David Feaster, President/CEO of Cornerstone Community Bank added, “When we finalized the agreement to merge Cornerstone Community Bank with Republic Bank, Steve Trager immediately told me that he wanted to not only make an impact in the bay area in the financial industry, but also have a commitment to the community. I suggested, and he readily agreed, that as a business in Tampa Bay, we needed to partner with the Tampa Bay Rays as a way to reach our target customers and to support this wonderful Tampa Bay-wide institution.”

Once Republic Bank has approval for legal merger, the Republic Bank brand will be expanding and will have a six banking center presence in the Florida market. By expanding their footprint, Republic Bank is able to impact the financial industry and now, by partnering with the Rays, will have a strong commitment to the community.