"This is a major step," Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan said Thursday. "I'm hopeful this will continue to build momentum on our effort to bring the Tampa Bay Rays to Ybor. Tomorrow's announcement will go a long way toward that, and I imagine at some point in the near future they'll announce their ballpark design."
The team is expected to make the official announcement at the Tampa Baseball Museum at 1:30 p.m. ET Friday.
The Rays have played at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, since joining Major League Baseball in 1998. According to Contorno, "Financing for a new stadium is not yet in place and could still take months to hammer out. The Rays have an agreement with the City of St. Petersburg that allows them to search for a new ballpark through January 2019."
Contorno added that "business leaders Ron Christaldi and Charles Sykes will unveil a corporate campaign to raise support for a Rays stadium in Tampa" on Friday. Kevin O'Donnell of Fox13News.com added that "until the team is satisfied with strong support from corporations for season tickets, they likely won't move ahead with discussing how to pay for the stadium."
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman also spoke about the organization's potential move to Tampa:
Rick Kriseman @Kriseman
This is the process unfolding as envisioned in order to keep the Rays in TB. The easy part is picking a favorite site. Hard part is figuring out the rest. I believe the Trop site is the best future home for the Rays, but we will also begin to master plan the site w/o a stadium.
As Contorno wrote, the club and local officials like the area near downtown Tampa for several reasons, including the neighborhood's "local authenticity," its placement between several transportation options for fans and its potential for future development.