Unless you’ve been paying close attention, it may come as a surprise that the Tampa Bay Rays’ stadium search hits the decade mark this year. Well aware of that fact are Chuck Sykes and Ron Christaldi, the principals behind the Tampa Bay Rays 2020, a privately funded nonprofit launched in early February to garner support from local businesses and community members to build a new Rays ballpark in Ybor City. Fellow members of that organization include Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Tampa Bay Rays owner Stu Sternberg and Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan.
Sykes, the CEO of Sykes Enterprises, has been involved in the site search since 2010, when he joined the ABC Coalition, a group created by former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker to find a new home for the Rays. Christaldi, the president and CEO of Shumaker Advisors Florida, joined with Sykes in 2017 to option the land in Ybor City from BluePearl Veterinary CEO Darryl Shaw. Shaw has spent nearly $64 million buying pieces of Ybor City property over the last few years, including the land on the corner of Channelside Drive and Adamo Drive that the Rays now plan to call home.
For Sykes and Christaldi, who are both former chairmen of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, seeing the impact of baseball on the community has driven each of them to work toward keeping the Tampa Bay Rays in the region. “Baseball is a fundamental piece of the fabric of our community,” Christaldi says. “It becomes an escape from peoples’ lives when they have pressure. For kids, it teaches them focus and teamwork. I believe baseball is one of the most important things to building a sense of community.”
“I love the impact that sports have,” Sykes says. “When you have thousands of citizens come together frequently every year and for that one moment are all cheer-ing on the same team, I think that has a profound impact on building community. I don’t think there is anything that does that better than sport.”
For the full story on the Tampa Bay Rays 2020 and proposed Ybor stadium site, click here.