St. Pete mayor says Rays need more outreach - WFLA News Channel 8

St. Pete mayor says Rays need more outreach

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The Rays home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays was sold out. The Rays home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays was sold out.
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ST. PETERSBURG, FL (WFLA) - The Tampa Bay Rays kick off the season with a sold out home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday. But, will that excitement continue throughout the season?

Last year, the Rays had the worst fan attendance in the MLB. The team partially blames Tropicana Field and wants to consider other options, but a contract through 2027 with the city, forbids that.

St. Petersburg Mayor, Rick Kriseman, was very vocal during the mayor's race about being more open minded when it comes to the Rays. He's had several meetings with the organization, and although he won't discuss what they talked about, he does want the Rays in St. Pete.

"I think I owe it to the residents to do everything I can to keep the team here," Kriseman said. "We've invested a lot of our heart and soul as a community and tax dollars. There were people who gave up their homes to build that stadium. I owe it to them. This is a regional asset."

Last year, The St. Petersburg City Council voted to pay $1.3 million for stadium upgrades like a 360-degree deck, and a new restaurant.

"We have a contract with them," Kriseman said. "For now we continue to work with the team to help them be successful. This is a mantra we've said to businesses throughout. We as a city want you to be successful. The Rays are no different."

Sports analysts expect another successful season for the Rays, maybe even World Series Champs, but will that get fans in the seats? The Mayor says he's not ready to give up on the team, but if it comes to that, the Rays leaving won't ruin the city.

"I think it's a blow," Kriseman said. "We've got this great city. I don't say this to downplay the Rays, but we've got a lot of great things. Our arts and culture plus the waterfront set us apart. I want the Rays to stay. Would it hurt to lose them? Sure it would. Would it kill us? No we're a great city."

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